Mammograms Cut Risk of Breast Cancer Death by Half, Study
TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News)-- Women who get routine
mammograms can lower their risk of dying from breast cancer by
nearly half, a new Dutch study suggests.
"Our study adds further to the evidence that mammography screening unambiguously reduces breast cancer mortality," said Dr. Suzie Otto, a senior researcher in the department of public health at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The routine screening also lowered the chances of being
diagnosed with an advanced cancer, she said.
The study appears online Dec. 6 in the journal
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Mammography screening, including the best schedule and the best
age to begin, is being hotly debated in the United States and
elsewhere. Some experts think women should start getting them at
age 40. Other think women should discuss the pros and cons of the
test at 40, decide on an individual basis and start screens
routinely at 50. Otto's study only looked at women aged 49 and
Otto tracked 755 patients who died from breast cancer from 1995
to 2003 and another 3,739 control patients matched by age and other
Among the women with breast cancer, nearly 30 percent of tumors
were found at screening and about 34 percent between screens.
Nearly 36 percent of these women had never had a mammogram.
Advanced tumors were found in about 30 percent of the patients
who had never been screened but in just over 5 percent of those who
Women who underwent screening reduced their risk of dying from
breast cancer by 49 percent. Women aged 70 to 75 had the greatest
risk reduction, reducing the risk of dying from breast cancer by 84
percent. The risk reduction in younger women, aged 50 to 69, was
smaller, at 39 percent, but still considered substantial.
The greater risk reduction in women aged 70 to 75, Otto said, is
probably a result of the long-term good effects of screening
participation in the earlier target age group, 50 to 69, before the
upper age limit for screening was extended in the Netherlands from
69 to 75.
The study findings ''add to the body of evidence supporting the
fact that mammography matters in improving detection and survival,"
said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill
Hospital in New York City. "This study focuses on survival."
The study, however, has some limitations, Bernik noted. It's not
clear, for instance, whether the women who died of cancer got less
aggressive treatment or refused treatment. That could have affected
survival, of course.
Mammography does lead to ''overtreatment" in some cases, Bernik
acknowledged. Some cancers that are found on mammography may not
have proven to be an issue in a woman's lifetime. "But there is no
way to figure out which cancers will be a problem or not," she
To learn more about mammograms, visit the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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