New Study Widens Debates on Value of Mammograms

September 28, 2010

The Philadelphia Inquirer

A study and editorial in today's New England Journal of Medicine continues the debate over the value of mammograms. The study, conducted in Norway and at Harvard University, centered on women in their 40s, when breast cancer is relatively rare but aggressive. It concludes that screening doesn't save many lives, even among women aged 50 to 69, who are at higher risk of the malignancy. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the study screened postmenopausal women for a decade; deaths were reduced by a "modest" 10 percent -- or about one life saved per 2,500 women who got the breast X-rays. Yet previous studies have estimated this "mortality benefit" to be about 25 percent. Emily F. Conant, MD, professor of Radiology and Chief of Breast Imaging at HUP, is concerned that this message could be misinterpreted. "Women are looking for reasons not to get their mammograms," Conant said. "We know mammography works. To cut back now, when we know how to hone and make it even better, is going back in time." Read More