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Research examines when benefits of screening mammography outweigh the harms for women in their 40s
Date:4/30/2012

WASHINGTON A new analysis suggests the benefits of mammography screening every other year outweigh the potential harms for women aged 40 to 49 who are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer -- a finding that could affect one out of every five American women. The researchers also found greater harms from screening done with digital mammography compared to film mammography. These findings, with contributions from three national research groups, are published in the May 1 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Our research suggests the benefit-harm balance is tipped in favor of every-other-year screening for women in their 40s who are at about twice the average risk of developing breast cancer," says the study's senior author Jeanne Mandelblatt, M.D., M.P.H., associate director for population sciences at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. "The study also determined that the balance of benefits and potential harms in this same group is not favorable when increasing the frequency of mammography screening to once a year."

Conditions that confer a two-fold increase in risk include having extremely dense breasts (13 percent of the population aged 40 to 49) or having a first-degree relative with breast cancer (9 percent of the population aged 40 to 49). A review of factors that increase breast cancer risk levels is also published in this issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (Nelson, et. al.)

The researchers characterized benefits of screening as life-years gained and breast cancer deaths averted. Harms are defined as false-positive mammography examinations that sometimes lead to additional procedures, and pain and anxiety.

Mandelblatt says putting these results into practice will not be straightforward. "For example, the need to have a mammogram to determine breast density is an important point to consider in regards to implementing risk-based guidelines based on breast density." Mandelblatt
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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