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Is There a Link Between Abortion and Breast Cancer?

Many myths are spread about the supposed risks of abortion. One story that you might have heard is that having an abortion could increase the chances of getting breast cancer.

Abortion and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. It is known to be linked to certain type of hormones, which are also connected to the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone and prolactin can affect the growth of breast cancer cells. Since the levels of these hormones change during the menstrual cycle or when we are pregnant, could experiences such as having a baby or getting an abortion affect our breast cancer risk?

When you have an abortion (or if a pregnancy ends through miscarriage), the levels of these hormones will drop suddenly. Some people have suggested that this could increase the chances of developing breast cancer. Several high-quality research projects have examined this possibility and found that there is no evidence that having an abortion affect the risk of breast cancer.

Can Having a Baby Affect Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

It is clear that having an abortion doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer, but there is some evidence that having a baby could reduce it. You are less likely to develop breast cancer if:

  • You have a baby (especially if you are a young mother)
  • You have more babies (the risk is reduced even more with each baby)
  • You spend time breastfeeding
  • You have fewer menstrual cycles (for example, you begin puberty later, enter the menopause earlier or have many pregnancies)

However, it’s important to remember that the difference in risk is quite small. Other factors such as your genes can have a much stronger impact on your breast cancer risk. It’s also important to be aware of the other risks of pregnancy and childbirth. You shouldn’t have a baby just to slightly reduce your risk of breast cancer. The risks of other health problems would outweigh the benefit of reduced breast cancer risk.

Abortion, Motherhood and Breast Cancer Risk

Having a baby can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, but women who have an abortion aren’t any more or less likely to have children than women who never need a termination. In fact, more than half of the women who have abortions in the UK have already had at least one baby. It’s also true that many women who have never had an abortion have also never had a baby, which means that they do not have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

If you have ever had a baby then you will have a lower risk of breast cancer, even if you have also had an abortion. If you’ve never has a baby, then you won’t have a reduced risk of breast cancer, even if you’ve never had an abortion.

Having an abortion won’t increase your risk of developing breast cancer. However, if you do decide to have a baby at some point and you are able to breastfeed, it will reduce the risk of breast cancer.

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