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Breast Cancer Health Center

Annual Mammograms and Breast Cancer Deaths

But some outside experts cite flaws in the 25-year review of screening's effects on women
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But other U.S.-based organizations, including the American Cancer Society, continue to recommend annual screening mammograms for women beginning at age 40.

The American College of Radiology, which also supports annual screening mammograms for women aged 40 and older, reacted strongly to the Canadian findings. In a statement issued Feb. 11, the college called the report "an incredibly misleading analysis based on the deeply flawed and widely discredited Canadian National Breast Screening Study."

Among those flaws, according to the college: the quality of mammograms done in the study was poor and the skills of the imaging technologists were not adequate.

The new report isn't a surprise, said Dr. Carol Lee, chairwoman of the college's breast imaging communications committee. "When it was first reported 20 years ago, it didn't show a benefit," she said.

The findings are at odds with many other reports that show a benefit for routine screening, Lee added.

"Screening mammography has been shown over and over again to decrease mortality from breast cancer," she said.

Lee said she is "concerned [the new study] is going to discourage women from having mammograms."

In an editorial accompanying the study, experts from the University of Oslo, the Harvard School of Public Health and other institutions agreed with the Canadian researchers that the rationale for screening needs to be reassessed by policy makers.

Baines said her research points to the value of offering screening mammograms only to those at higher risk of breast cancer.

"In time, the hope is to offer screening to a subset of the population [that has] been identified, probably by genetic markers, to be very likely to benefit from screening," she said.

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