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

year in the screened areas, compared with 2 percent per year in the non-screened areas. Among women aged 35 to 54, deaths from breast cancer dropped by 5 percent per year in the screened areas and 6 percent per year in the non-screened areas. For women aged 75 to 84, there was no significant change in breast cancer mortality either with screened or non-screened areas, the researchers noted.

"The decline in breast cancer mortality began years before the mammography screening program did, and the declines in breast cancer mortality were much larger in age groups too young to benefit than in the age groups that could," Jorgensen said. "The absence of an effect of screening mammography in population statistics is clearly contrary to expectations, and our findings speak against screening mammography being effective."

So, it is not clear-cut that mammography screening saves lives, Jorgensen said. The same researchers reported previously in the same journal that one of three breast cancers detected by mammograms never cause a problem, possibly regressing on their own without treatment.

"Similar to our study, breast cancer mortality in the U.S. has declined much more in women below 50 years than in women over 50 years, where the expected effect and screening coverage is larger. It is time to dare to ask the critical questions about screening mammography that has been avoided for many years. We may not like what we find, but it is the only right thing to do," Jorgensen said.

However, Robert Smith, director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society, couldn't disagree more with that conclusion.

"The main problem with their analysis is that it is over a short period of time, and they are not able to isolate deaths attributable to cases diagnosed in the pre-screening period," he said.

Mammography does save lives, Smith said. The ability to diagnose breast cancer early is a major reason the deaths from breast
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