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Breast Cancer News: Mammogram Screening Doesn't Cut Mortality Risk

Experts discussed how to implement mammogram screening programs across Europe at a breast cancer conference held on Friday in Barcelona, the AP reported. The AP report says that in 2007 59 million women in Europe were eligible to participate in mammogram screening, but only 12 million turned up.

Mammogram screening is widely used to help detect cancer early, in hopes that the death risk from the disease can be reduced. But a new study has found that these screenings do not significantly reduce mortality from the disease. 

The study, published in the March 23, 2010 issue of British Medical Journal, showed that the reduction in the death risk from breast cancer was similar regardless of whether or not mammogram screening was used to detect the cancer. 

For the study, Jørgensen KJ and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark compared the annual percentage change in breast cancer mortality in areas where mammogram screening was used in comparison to the changes in those areas where the screening was not used.  Specifically, they compared mortality results from the period ten years before mammogram screening was introduced, with the ten years following its introduction.    

The study considered all Danish women recorded in the cause of Death Register and Statistics Denmark between 1971 and 2006.  Copenhagen started using mammography screening in 1991 and in Funen county in 1993. The rest of the country served as an unscreened control group. 

The results of the research are as follows: 

In women aged 55 to 74 who could benefit from mammogram screening, the mortality decline over a ten year period in the screened areas was 1 percent compared to 2 percent reduction in the unscreened areas. 

In women aged 35 to 55 who were too young to benefit from mammography screening, the breast cancer mortality rate during the study period declined 5 percent per year in the screened areas, compared to 6 percent per year in the non-screened areas. 

In women aged 75 to 84, there was no change in breast cancer mortality over time in both screened and unscreened areas. 

The researchers concluded that "We were unable to find an effect of the Danish screening programme on breast cancer mortality. The reductions in breast cancer mortality we observed in screening regions were similar or less than those in non-screened areas and in age groups too young to benefit from screening, and are more likely explained by changes in risk factors and improved treatment than by screening mammography."


By David Liu and editing by Rachel Stockton