Mammograms really do reduce breast cancer deaths

HealthDay reports, “Women who get routine mammograms can lower their risk of dying from breast cancer by nearly half,” according to a Dutch study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Researchers found that “women who underwent screening reduced their risk of dying from breast cancer by 49 percent. Women aged 70 to 75 had the greatest risk reduction, reducing the risk of dying from breast cancer by 84 percent. The risk reduction in younger women, aged 50 to 69, was smaller, at 39 percent, but still considered substantial.”

Medscape reports, “For the study, investigators examined data from 755 women aged 49 to 75 years who died of breast cancer from 1995 to 2003” and found that “of the cancers detected, 29.8% were detected by screening mammogram, 34.3% were detected at intervals between screenings, and 35.9% occurred in women who had never been screened (nonparticipants).

“Cancers in nonparticipants tended to be more advanced, with a rate of 29.5% for stage IV tumors compared with 5.3% for screen-detected cases and 15.1% for interval cases.

“In contrast, regular screening was more likely to reveal early-stage localized tumors (34.2% vs 10.8% for intervals and 10.3% for nonparticipants).”

WebMD notes, “The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that women have mammograms every two years from age 50 to 74. These are similar to guidelines followed in the Dutch study.”

USPSTF co-vice chair Michael LeFevre, MD, commented that the study “supports what we’ve already recommended.”

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