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January 24, 1996

Abortion and the Risk of Breast Cancer: Is There a Believable Association?

Author Affiliations

From the Divisions of Epidemiology (Dr Gammon and Ms Terry) and Population and Family Health (Ms Bertin), Columbia University School of Public Health, New York, NY.

JAMA. 1996;275(4):321-322. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530280073041

The data presented by Newcomb and colleagues1 in this issue of JAMA add one more valuable piece to a scientifically complex and politically charged jigsaw puzzle, the issue of breast cancer risk and abortion. To date, the epidemiologic evidence on this issue remains inconsistent.2 Despite some highly publicized studies that support a significant positive association between induced abortion and breast cancer, primarily among inconsistently identified subgroups of women—such as women younger than 33 years with an abortion before a first birth,3 nulliparous women,4 women older than 50 years,5 gravid women with an early or late age at first abortion,6 women younger than age 40 years,6,7 or among those with a family history of breast cancer8—many studies do not.9-18 While there is an apparently consistent observation of a modest 10% to 50% elevation in risk in relation to a history of