Screening Has Little Impact on Breast Cancer Deaths

Death rate down because of better treatment, researchers say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2011 3:02 AM CDT
"Improvements in treatment and in the efficiency of healthcare systems may be more plausible explanations" for the falling death rate, researchers say.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The drop in breast cancer deaths over the last few decades is thanks to better treatment, not widespread screening, according to a new study. European countries that introduced routine screening early saw breast cancer deaths decline at roughly the same rate as countries that introduced screening 10 to 15 years later, researchers found. The study is likely to fuel the fierce debate over the merit of mammograms, Reuters notes.

"I am among those who pushed hard for systematic screening for breast cancer in the 1990s," the lead researcher says. "But now there are question marks and we have to provide answers, because we cannot continue to promote something that may not be very effective but which can lead to a certain number of false positives." Other researchers, however, say that women who catch the disease early will be able to undergo less invasive treatment.

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