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Friday, October 5, 2007
Who's Behind Abortion-Breast Cancer Study? (Update)
Topic: WorldNetDaily

An Oct. 4 WorldNetDaily article reported that "A new study shows that abortions can be classified as carcinogens, because the number of breast cancer cases can be predicted reasonably accurately based on the number of abortions in a given population." But the group behind the study has a murky background, and the study was published in a conservative journal.

The study was conducted by Patrick S. Carroll, which WND described as being with "London-based research institute PAPRI." What is that? PAPRI stands for Pension and Population Research Institute, which is so low-profile it doesn't even have a website. What does it do? We're not really sure. A Nexis search uncovered little information about the group; a December 2001 article in the journal GP describes the PAPRI as "a charitable trust with educational aims" and Carroll as an "actuarial researcher." Indeed, Carroll seems to be PAPRI's only employee: He's the only one quoted as representing it, mostly in either press releases by anti-abortion groups touting his abortion-breast cancer research or letters to the editor to British newspapers regarding population issues In a February 2006 letter to the UK Observer, Carroll blamed government policies for the low British birth rate -- "The National Health has offered hormonal contraceptives free of charge since 1973. The slump in the birth rate has followed closely this government measure. Eighty per cent of British abortions are paid for by the NHS" -- adding, "When men have the higher salary, there is less of a financial hurdle to clear to parenthood. Pressure for more women in top jobs will further depress the birth rate."  A 1993 article in the Independent of London cites an Alan Smallbone as "chairman of the trustees of the Pension and Population Research Institute."

Carroll published a previous study trying to establish an abortion-breast cancer link in 2001. A article stated that it was "commissioned by a British pro-life group." the British group Life. That appears to be this group; it argues against abortion even in cases of rape and fetal deformity. That's a red flag; a "pro-life group" would only be interested in funding research that attacks abortion, which makes the results suspect. Indeed, in his new study, Carroll states: "Particular thanks are due to the charities LIFE and The Medical Education Trust, which funded the research." The Medical Education Trust appears to be another British anti-abortion group; it lists among its publications "Induced Abortion: Hazards to Health and Future Motherhood." WND does not mention that "pro-life" groups funded Carroll's research.

And what better place to get a bought-and-paid-for study published than the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, where Carroll's study appeared? As we've detailed, the JAPS is published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative-leaning group that likes to put its politics ahead of sound research. Most notoriously, the JAPS published a 2003 anti-immigrant screed by Madeleine Cosman that falsely claimed "in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy," which she blamed on illegal immigration; in fact, 7,000 is the cumulative number of cases over the past 30 years (as we've detailed).

If Cosman's rant made it through the JAPS' purported peer review, one has to look at Carroll's work with similar skepticism.

UPDATE: An Oct. 5 article by Randy Hall reports on Carroll's study, but like WND, he doesn't note that it was funded by two anti-abortion groups. And like WND, Hall quotes Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer -- which is touting the study -- making unsupportable, overblown claims. Hall writes that according to Malec, the study "re-confirms what many scientists acknowledge in private but won't mention in public ... because they fear the potential medical liability involved." WND, meanwhile, quotes Malec saying that "abortions are highly, highly, carcinogenic" and that "It's time for scientists to admit publicly what they already acknowledge privately among themselves – that abortion raises breast cancer risk – and to stop conducting flawed research to protect the medical establishment from massive … lawsuits."

Posted by Terry K. at 1:19 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2007 9:16 AM EDT

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