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Tarim Yilpizi
13-03-06, 19:08
Breast screening under the microscope


Breast cancer screening leads to a substantial number of false alarms, suggest new findings from Sweden.

Dr Sophia Zackrisson of Malmo University Hospital, Sweden and colleagues analysed a long-term study of breast cancer screening carried out between 1976 and 1986, with follow-up data to 2001.

They found that the rate of over-diagnosis was 10 per cent in these women, who were 55-69 years of age when screened.

"It is widely agreed that screening using mammography can reduce mortality in breast cancer," they write on the British Medical Journal website today (3 March). "The rate of over-diagnosis is another issue to be considered in the ongoing discussion about clinical and public health implications of breast cancer screening."

More discussion is needed on this negative consequence of screening campaigns, they add.

In another article in the journal this week, the information sent to women about breast screening is assessed.

Dr Peter Gotzsche and colleagues at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark looked at mammography invitations from English-speaking and Scandinavian countries.

They found that the benefits of screening were mentioned in 97 per cent of invitations, but believe that: "Breast screening information should be more balanced."

In particular, women must be adequately informed about potential harms, such as a false positive result.

An accompanying editorial on breast screening in the UK reports that: "Breast screening now saves 1,400 lives per year at a cost of only 3,000 UK pounds per year of life saved."

It concludes that: "Although breast screening by mammography is far from perfect, it is worthwhile."