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Mammography Study: Death Risk Cut In Half

September 7, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Women who take advantage of a mammography-based screening program face half the risk of dying from breast cancer compared to women who don’t, according to a new Australian study.

The study, published in the September issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, focused on Western Australia women ages 50–69—specifically, 427 women who died from breast cancer, each matched to up to 10 living controls, with a total of 3,650 control women.

Since 1991, Australia has offered government-funded mammography screening through the BreastScreen Australia Program. The program particularly targets women in the 50-69 age group, although it also accepts women in their 40s and those older than 69.

Screening attendance in the group of women who died was much lower than in the control group. The researchers estimated that those who regularly used screening had a 49 percent reduced risk of dying.

Carolyn Nickson, PhD, the study’s lead author, said:

Sound research methods have been used in this study. I believe it is time to move on from the debate about whether screening reduces mortality and to instead direct research resources to help improve the program for women who choose to use it.

Dr. Nickson is a research fellow  at the Centre for Women’s Health, Gender and Society at The University of Melbourne. She was quoted in a university news release.

It’s not likely that this study will end the debate about mammography screening. But it certainly bolsters the views of screening proponents.

“It is important that Australian women have accurate information about the pros and cons of participating in BreastScreen,” Dr. Nickson said. “The findings of this study may help women decide whether to participate.”

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