Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Risk of cancer of the breast after legal abortion during first trimester: a Swedish register study.

British Medical Journal 1989; 299 doi: (Published 09 December 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;299:1430
  1. B. M. Harris,
  2. G. Eklund,
  3. O. Meirik,
  4. L. E. Rutqvist,
  5. K. Wiklund
  1. Department of Cancer, Karolinska Institute and Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.


    An increase in induced abortions in Sweden has been accompanied by an increase in the incidence of breast cancer of about 40% in women aged 20-44. To assess whether the apparent risk is real the risk of breast cancer was investigated in practically all Swedish women with a history of a legal abortion in the first trimester before the age of 30 during 1966-74 (n = 49,000). The cohort was followed up in the Swedish cancer register to identify cases of breast cancer diagnosed more than five years after the abortion until the end of 1984. The number of observed cases of breast cancer was 65 compared with an expected number of 84.5, estimated from the contemporary Swedish population with due consideration to age, giving a relative risk of 0.8 (95% confidence interval 0.58 to 0.99). Contrary to most earlier reports, this study did not indicate any overall increased risk of breast cancer after an induced abortion in the first trimester in young women.