Mammogram Study: 1.3M Women 'Overdiagnosed'

But proponents of the tests call findings 'malicious nonsense'

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 21, 2012 7:04 PM CST

(Newser) – Add this to the ever-going debate over mammograms: A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine says 1.3 million women have been incorrectly diagnosed—or "overdiagnosed"—with breast cancer over the past 30 years because of them, reports the Los Angeles Times. That means about 70,000 women a year undergo unnecessary treatment, say the researchers, who assert that about one-third of all tumors discovered in mammograms will never result in cancer.

The findings will do little to settle the issue, based on the early reaction from proponents of the tests, notes the Washington Post. Two competing quotes:

  • "Our study raises serious questions about the value of screening mammography," says Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth. "It clarifies that the benefit of mortality reduction reduction is probably smaller, and the harm of overdiagnosis probably larger, than has been previously recognized."
  • "This is simply malicious nonsense," said Dr. Daniel Kopans of Boston's Mass General. "It is time to stop blaming mammography screening for 'overdiagnosis' and 'overtreatment' in an effort to deny women access to screening."

A radiologist uses a magnifying glass to check mammograms for breast cancer in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
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