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Mammogram screening per se can lead to breast cancer

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By Jimmy Downs

Friday Nov 23, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- It can't be emphasized enough that mammogram screening per se can cause breast cancer.  A study recently published in Cancer Epidemiology has confirmed that women who were false positively diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently receiving invasive diagnostic examinations were more likely to develop breast cancer than those who were not.

False positive diagnosis with breast cancer often led to further testing and examination or even treatment. The study found a fine-needle aspiration cytology or a biopsy increased the risk of developing breast cancer by 169 % and 81 percent, respectively, compared with those who only received mammogram screening, but not invasive examinations.

X. Castells at Department of Epidemiology and Evaluation, Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica-Parc de Salut Mar, Mar Teaching Hospital in Barcelona, Spain and colleagues analysed data from 762,506 women aged 45 to 69 years who participated two mammogram screening programs between 1990 and 2006 and were followed  during this 17-year period.
Women who received a false-positive diagnosis with breast cancer in the first screening program and also a fine-needle aspiration cytology or a biopsy were 2.69 times and 1.81 times, respectively, as likely as those receiving imaging procedures alone to develop breast cancer as confirmed in the second screening program.

The increase in the risk of developing breast cancer was particularly higher among those who had received cytology or biopsy and also had family history of breast cancer.  The risk was increased by 4.6 times among these women.

The risk of breast cancer induced by a fine-needle aspiration cytology or biopsy was also higher among women who were 65 to 69 years. These women were 84 percent more likely than younger women who were in the same diagnostic status to develop breast cancer. 

The study demonstrated that women who were false positively diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently received cytology or biopsy were at drastically increased risk of developing breast cancer.

False positive diagnosis is only one problem with mammogram screening, which can lead to harmful invasive examinations and even treatment.  Another problem is radiation used in the diagnostic procedure.

Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, professor emeritus of Environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois school of public health and chairman of the cancer prevention coalition says on website preventcancer.com that mammogram screening poses a range of risks that women are unaware of.

For one thing, radiation used in the mammography is a cancer causing agent recognized by the National Toxicology Program.  Dr.  Epstein says postmenopausal women who undergo annual screening for a ten-year period would receive exposure to about 10 rads for each breast and each rad results in one cancer in every 100 premenopausal women. The breast cancer risk from mammography can be fourfold higher for women who carry the A-T gene.

Radiation through mammogram screening can also increase risk of ischemic heart disease.

The USPSTF recommends biennial screening mammography should only be used in women aged 50 to 74, but not those aged 40 to 49 years.

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