Editorial criticizes Komen for overstating mammography’s benefits

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, “Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest breast-cancer advocacy group, was criticized by doctors for overstating the benefits of mammograms and failing to tell women about the risks in its last public advertising campaign.”

Some “recent Komen ads urged regular mammograms and implied that skipping them was harmful, Steven Woloshin and Lisa Schwartz, directors of the Center for Medicine and the Media at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire, wrote … in the British Medical Journal.”

On its website, CNN reports that the authors “say the problem in Komen’s case is using survival statistics to determine the benefit of screening.” According to Woloshin, “There is no correlation between changes in survival and changes in how many people die.” said. He added, “The most important harm is overdiagnosis – screening can find cancers that were never destined to cause harm because it grows so slowly or can go away on its own.”

NBC News reports, “Woloshin called whether to get screened a personal decision that should be based on factors including age and family history.”

AFP reports, “Komen, in a response to the BMJ comment, insisted that early detection enables early treatment, which gives the best shot at survival.”

MedPage Today reports, “Woloshin and Schwartz argued that the timing of breast cancer diagnosis has minimal impact on long-term survival, citing evidence that mammography reduces a 50-year-old woman’s 10-year risk of dying of breast cancer from 0.53% to 0.46%.”

Nonetheless, HealthDay reports that “few doctors would argue that there isn’t some benefit to mammography.”

Enter your email to subscribe to Dr. Walt's blogs.

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Dr. Walt Larimore will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.