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Mammograms May Not Boost Survival, Danish Study Suggests
Date:3/24/2010

But U.S. expert says screening is best way to prevent breast cancer deaths

WEDNESDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Screening women for breast cancer does not appear to increase overall survival from the disease, a new study finds.

The increased survival rates may instead be due to controlling risk factors and improved treatments, the researchers suggest.

"Mammography screening is not as good as we hoped years ago," said study author Dr. Karsten Jorgensen, a researcher at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"It is questionable if it saves women from dying from breast cancer, but we are certain that it has serious harms such as overdiagnosis and overtreatment of lesions that would otherwise never have caused problems, unnecessary recalls with long-term psychological consequences, and unnecessary biopsies and worries," Jorgensen added.

The report is published in the March 24 online edition of the BMJ.

For the study, Jorgensen's team compared the changes in death rates from breast cancer in two Danish screening programs with areas in Denmark that do not screen women for breast cancer. They looked at the 10-year period after screening would be expected to have an effect on breast cancer deaths and compared that with the 10-year period before screening was started.

In addition, they looked at three age groups: women aged 55 to 74, who would benefit from screening; women aged 35 to 55, who were too young to have benefited from screening; and women aged 75 to 84, who were too old to have seen an effect from screening.

"In the age group that could benefit from screening mammography, breast cancer mortality in Danish regions that did not offer mammography screening decreased similar or more than in those regions that did [offer mammography]," Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen's group found among women aged 55 to 74, breast cancer deaths dropped by 1 percent per
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