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Most Breast Cancer Deaths Occur in Unscreened Women — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
September 10, 2013

Most Breast Cancer Deaths Occur in Unscreened Women

By Amy Orciari Herman

Nearly three quarters of deaths from breast cancer occur among women who've not undergone mammographic screening, according to a study in Cancer.

Researchers in Massachusetts examined the medical records of some 7300 women who were diagnosed with potentially curable (stages I to III) invasive breast cancer from 1990 through 1999 and followed them through 2007. During that time, there were roughly 600 proven breast cancer deaths — 71% of which occurred among unscreened women. Half of all breast cancer deaths occurred among those younger than 50.

The researchers conclude: "To maximize mortality reduction and life-years gained, initiation of regular screening before age 50 years should be encouraged."

Reader Comments (4)

Kenneth

Copious other data rebuffs the findings of this new study. Several large, randomized studies did not report a notable reduction in breast cancer mortality from mammogram usage; studies in favor of mammograms are nearly all designed and implemented by researchers with significant conflicts-of-interests (Daniel Kopans, co-author of this new study, is a prime example of this); all studies in support of screening with mammography minimize or ignore the true risks of mammography (Kopans, again, meets that criteria on many occasions), the most heralded and influential pro-mammogram studies are severely flawed (read the e-book "The Mammogram Myth: The Independent Investigation Of Mammography The Medical Profession Doesn't Want You To Know About" by Rolf Hefti). This new study conveys little scientific reliability but it certainly has great sensationalistic value.

Joel Wolkowicz, MDCM Physician, Cardiology, CVPH MEdical Center, Plattsburgh, NY

What percentage of women were screened? 29% of deaths occurred in patients who had been screened. Life-years gained can be improved by mammography just by making the diagnosis earlier, without improving outcomes. Sounds like a re-hash of all the same mammography arguments. Hard to say based on information presented if the authors conclusions are justified.

Giulio Nati Dr. Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, Rome

How can the authors rule out the effects of overdiagnosis? In fact we know that screening is associated with a greater number of early stage breast cancer detected.

FRANKLIN BRAGG Physician, Internal Medicine, Eastern Maine Medical Center

But, this study looked at "death by breast cancer". The USPSTF recommendation is based on studies that use overall death rate, since ascertaining the cause of death is fraught with error. In fact, in this study they excluded any women in whom they couldn't determine the cause of death!

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