February 12, 2014


Mammogram screenings don't reduce cancer death rates, study finds (Monte Morin, February 11, 2014, LA Times)

Yearly mammography screenings for women ages 40 to 59 do not reduce breast cancer deaths, even though they make a diagnosis of illness more likely, according to a long-term study of nearly 90,000 Canadian women.

The research, published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, is the latest in a series of studies that question the value of annual breast X-rays for pre-menopausal women and whether too many women are being "overdiagnosed" by the popular test.

"We found absolutely no benefit in terms of reduction of deaths from the use of mammography," said study leader Dr. Anthony Miller, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. [...]

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, an epidemiologist and biostatistics professor at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine, said the study offered the highest-quality evidence yet on the prevalence of overdiagnosis.

"I think there's growing realization that all is not well with mammography," said Welch, who co-wrote the book "Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health." "People in the cancer community and the cancer surgery community are aware of the problem of overdiagnosis. They're aware that mammography was oversold, that its benefits were exaggerated and its harms were kind of downplayed."

In an editorial that accompanied the study, three breast cancer experts from the University of Oslo who have studied the effects of screening in Europe said Miller and his colleagues made a convincing case that current policies should be reconsidered.

"This is not an easy task, because governments, research funders, scientists and medical practitioners may have vested interests in continuing activities that are well established," they wrote.

Posted by at February 12, 2014 8:24 AM