| NEW YORK
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A review of 50 years of studies
on the risks and benefits of yearly mammograms has tied them to
a 19 percent drop overall in breast cancer deaths, but whether a
woman benefits depends on factors such as age and family
history, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.
A report published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association is the latest attempt to sort out mixed messages
about mammogram screening, once an annual chore whose merits
have been questioned by some studies suggesting that mammograms
save far fewer women than previously thought.
"It would be easier for everyone if there was a clear,
pre-specified pathway with a given risk profile, but we don't
have that because our data is not perfect and everyone is
different," Dr. Lydia Pace of Brigham and Women's Hospital in
Boston, who led the study, told Reuters Health. "I wish that we
had more certainty."
Five years ago, U.S. women routinely started getting annual
mammograms at age 40. That practice came under fire in 2009 when
the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of
experts that advises U.S. policymakers, said evidence suggested
that women of average breast cancer risk could get mammograms
every two years starting at age 50.
A large, 25-year Canadian study published in February found
yearly mammogram screenings did not reduce the chance that a
woman would die of breast cancer and confirmed earlier findings
that many abnormalities detected by these X-rays would never
have been fatal, even if untreated.
Despite mounting evidence, many U.S. organizations still
recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40, but most other
countries have guidelines similar to the task force's
recommendation, Pace said.
For their review, Pace and Dr. Nancy Keating, also of
Brigham, gathered several previous studies that examined the
risks and benefits of mammograms. They found that annual
mammograms reduced breast cancer deaths by 19 percent on
average, but the actual decrease depended on a woman's age.
For example, if 10,000 women in their 40s received an annual
mammogram, doctors would find 190 invasive breast cancers. Of
those, mammography would save about five lives but 25 women
would have died with or without the mammogram.
Among women in their 50s who had a yearly mammogram, the
benefits increased slightly, with between three and 32 lives
saved for every 10,000 women screened over the next 15 years.
SOURCE: bit.ly/WddS8K JAMA, online April 1, 2014.
(Reporting by Andrew M. Seaman; Editing by Christine Soares and