WEDNESDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Two long-term studies from the Netherlands suggest that routine mammography screening does save women's lives.
One of the longest national breast cancer screening programs in the world led to a significant drop in deaths and caused limited harm, such as false-positive results and over-diagnosis, according to one of the new studies.
Another study found that regular mammography screening helped save lives even after adjusting for improvements in breast cancer treatment.
"These results show why mammography is such an effective screening tool," said one U.S. expert, Dr. Kristin Byrne, chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She was not involved in the new research.
Both studies were slated to be presented Wednesday at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Vienna, Austria.
In one study, researchers analyzed data collected during the first 20 years of the mammography breast cancer screening program launched in the Netherlands in 1989.
"Compared with the pre-screening period 1986 to 1988, deaths from breast cancer among women aged 55-79 fell by 31 percent in 2009," Jacques Fracheboud, a senior researcher at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, said in a meeting news release.
"We found there was a significant change in the annual increase in breast cancer deaths: before the screening program began, deaths were increasing by 0.3 percent a year, but afterwards there was an annual decrease of 1.7 percent," he added. "This change also coincided with a significant decrease in the rates of breast cancers that were at an advanced stage when first detected."
Most Dutch women seemed amenable to regular mammography. Over the first 20 years of the screening program, 16.6 million personal invitations for breast cancer screening were sent to 3.6 million women ages 50-75 (the present screening age in the Netherlands). Overall acc
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