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Study questions effects of breast cancer screenings on survival rates

The value of screening older women for breast cancer is once again being questioned. Reuters reports:

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from Denmark and Norway said reductions in breast cancer death rates in regions with screening were the same or actually smaller than in areas where no women were screened...

In women likely to benefit from screening (those aged 55 to 74 years) breast cancer mortality fell by 1 percent a year in screened areas and by 2 percent a year in non-screened areas, the researchers found.

As you may recall, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force sparked widespread debate in November when the group recommended that most women be regularly screened for breast cancer at age 50 rather than 40. Many experts are still critical of the recommendations; at a community education program last month, Stanford physicians said they'll continue to support guidelines from the American Cancer Society that call for annual mammograms starting at age 40.

As for the lead researcher on this study, he said he hopes the findings will inform the ongoing debate on the issue. And, he told Reuters, he wants to make women aware "that the chance they will benefit from [mammography] is very small."

Previously: Effectiveness research ignites prairie fire and New mammogram guidelines echo ones developed by physicians group

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