Controversy

By
October 24, 2002

Many studies have been done recently that have questioned whether or not mammograms are helpful in early detection of breast cancer.

The question was raised in 1999 by two Danish researchers, Ole Olsen and Peter Gotzche, who found that after 14 years of using mammograms there was no decrease in the risk of dying from breast cancer in Sweden.

Breastcancer.org, a group of breast cancer researchers from all over the country, points out that of the eight studies that the researchers looked at only two were properly randomized and therefore took only those two into account, which both showed that mammograms did not prevent deaths from breast cancer.

In response, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization), the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare and the Board of Health of the Netherlands reviewed the conclusions of the Danish researchers. These groups agreed there was insufficient evidence to support the Danish researcher’s conclusions, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Olsen and Gotzsche argue that the overall death rate might actually be increased as a response to the agreesive post-mammogram treatments such as operations and toxic therapies, breastcancer.org reported.

Dr. Robert Smith, director of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society, said “all other studies of mammograms show an increase in survival.”

In addition, all mammogramy equipment uses radiation, although it is smaller doses as technology is improved, said Dr. John Gofman, a nuclear scientist. The risk is small, a typical mammogram exudes the amount of radiation that translates into a one in 2,700 chance of developing cancer, but overtime the risk increases with each subsequent mammogram, he added.

The National Cancer Institute, the National Women’s Health Network and the Center for Medical Consumers advise that premenopausal women try to avoid mammography, but support it for women over 50, according to a report by Mother Jones Magazine.


Controversy was published on October 24, 2002 in Features

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