Mammograms Not Very Effective: Study

They have only a 'modest' impact on reducing breast cancer deaths
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2010 1:35 PM CDT
Mammograms Not Very Effective: Study
A doctor studies a mammogram in this file photo.   (AP Photo/BBN Technologies)

Mammograms don’t save as many lives as women may believe, according to a new study. Researchers from Harvard and Norway have concluded mammograms have only a “modest” impact on breast cancer deaths, accounting for about a third of the drop in deaths seen in Norway since the 1980s. And even those benefits “may be missed unless breast-cancer screening is integrated into a well-functioning health care system that is available to the entire population,” the authors write.

Doctors have been debating the relative benefits of mammography, suspecting that other factors besides early detection are responsible for drops in breast cancer rates, the Boston Globe explains. In an editorial accompanying the study, a Dartmouth physician writes that the results “help confirm that the decision about whether to undergo screening mammography is, in fact, a close call.” (More breast cancer stories.)

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