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HB 2945

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I’m quoted on Abortion and Breast Cancer Risk

Several media outlets sort of quoted my testimony against HB 2945 in the Texas State House Affairs Committee on Wednesday. However, they proved Mark Twain’s assertion that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

In my testimony against HB 2945, I also pointed to the National Cancer Institute’s webpage, “Reproductive History and Breast Cancer Risk,” which outlines the protective effect of pregnancy. After all, the only women and girls receiving this information are pregnant women and girls!

Unfortunately, Representative Farrar focused on the “peer review” status of the Mabye article (“Did it go through the Medline or PubMed?”), ignoring the NCI data.

In that (yes, Jessica, it’s “peer reviewed”) New England Journal of Medicine article, the authors note that, while their study found no increased risk overall, there is a protective effect of pregnancy and an increased risk for some women: “Induced abortion had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer, but we found a statistically significant increase in risk among women with a history of second-trimester abortion.” This was a small number of cases, but it was also in spite of the authors’ acknowledging that unknown thousands of unrecorded abortions ( those before 1973 computerization of records) were probably not accounted for.

From the Texas Tribune:

Dr. Beverly Nuckols, a family doctor from New Braunfels and board member of Texas Alliance for Life, testified against the bill. She cited a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 that showed pregnancy decreases the risk of breast cancer.

“No one would prescribe pregnancy to prevent breast cancer,” Nuckols said. “We’re just letting them know that if they have a risk factor in their family, this pregnancy may cut their risk of breast cancer in half.”

via House Panel Debates Changes to Booklet on Abortion | The Texas Tribune.

Others:

Austin Chronicle, “A Woman’s Right to Know the Truth”

Statistics and “Peer Review”

Typical of the reportingMedline jpeg on the connection between abortion and breast cancer, a blogger at “RhealityCheck,” only reports half a sentence – the half that she likes.

I don’t know how long my comments will stay up, so here’s my part:

The author only quoted half a sentence. The article clearly states, “Induced abortion had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer, but we found a statistically significant increase in risk among women with a history of second-trimester abortion.”

and

That 89% increased risk is significant to that “small number” of women who developed cancer. The 23% increased risk after ab at 15-18 weeks might seem significant for some.

The authors admit that they probably missed thousands of abortions because the registry wasn’t computerized before 1973, but they started counting cancer cases in 1968. That fact skews any “overall” conclusions.

And here’s the link to the article in question. Please note that even this research must adjust for the age at first pregnancy and for number of pregnancies.

My testimony begins at 1 hour, 12 minutes in on the video of the hearing. I actually focused on the protective effect of pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, according to the National Cancer Institute. This information is only given to women and girls who are already pregnant, after all.

Interestingly, we learned how little the Committee members understood about scientific research and resources. Follow the hours of testimony on HB 2945 and HB 2365 and Rep.Jessica Farrar’s obsession and apparent slow realization about the meaning and significance of “peer review” and “PubMed” and “Medline.“At one point, 1:26, Ms. Farrar, who admits that she “barely got through biology,” asks whether the research was “peer reviewed” by “the Medline or PubMed.”

As the day went on, it seems that Farrar was educated that peer review is conducted by the Journals themselves, and that PubMed and Medline are merely indexes of scientifc literature.

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