Updated: 06/18/2014 1:48 PM
Created: 06/18/2014 1:47 PM WDIO.com
By: MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer
LONDON (AP) - In the latest major study to consider whether the dangers of mammograms outweigh the benefits, experts say the tests can reduce the chances of dying from breast cancer by nearly 30 percent and that national screening programs should continue.
The debate over the value of mammograms has raged in recent years.
A British review in 2012 concluded that for every life mammograms save, about three other women are unnecessarily treated for a cancer that would never have threatened their lives. In February, a rigorous Canadian paper covering older methods of screening that followed women for more than two decades suggested mammograms don't lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.
In the new observational study, researchers tracked all Norwegian women aged 50 to 79 between 1986 and 2009, just as a national screening program was getting underway. Scientists used a model to estimate breast cancer death rates in women invited to get a mammogram as part of the government-funded program and in those who weren't included yet. They said about 76 percent of women offered a mammogram actually got it.
The researchers estimated about 368 women need to be given a chance to have a mammogram to prevent one death from breast cancer and that screening reduces breast cancer deaths by about 28 percent - similar to what many other studies about mammography have concluded.
The research was published online Tuesday in the British journal, BMJ and was paid for by the Norwegian Research Council.
"Mammograms do provide some benefit, but the problem is the screening is so sensitive it captures tumors without malignant potential," said Lars Vatten of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, one of the study's authors.
Vatten said improved treatments for breast cancer were also lowering death rates in developed countries, making mammograms less important since even cancers caught later are sometimes still treatable.
He said the benefits of getting a mammogram justified ongoing national screening programs but that women should be given more information about the potential harms, like having unnecessary treatment including surgery and chemotherapy.
In many Western European countries, women are offered mammograms every other year from age 50 to 70. In the U.S., a government-appointed task force recommends the screening start at 50 while the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms from age 40.
"To tell women not to have a mammogram is probably an overreaction but we are becoming more certain screening has significant harms," said Russell Harris of the University of North Carolina, who co-authored an accompanying editorial. He said the paper's estimate that being offered a chance to get a mammogram reduces breast cancer deaths by almost 30 percent was an overestimate because of the uncertainties in the model.
"Getting a mammogram is something that women should be given a choice about," Harris said. "It's reasonable to decide not to do it."
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Thousands Flock for Two Harbors Beargrease Marathon Start
About 45 teams of mushers and dogs took off on the John Beargrease Marathon trail in Two Harbors Sunday afternoon to cheers from thousands of spectators, despite a departure from the traditional race start at Duluth East High School...
Wisconsin Lawmaker Hopes to End 'Vaping' Indoors
Lawmakers are set to reignite conversations this week about whether vaping - using electronic cigarettes and other vapor smoking devices - should be included in Wisconsin's smoking ban. The ban took effect in 2010. It outlaws smoking in all public indoor locations, including restaurants and bars.
Campground Fees Rise this Year at Michigan State Parks
Fees at state-operated campgrounds in Michigan are going up this year to cover higher costs and pay for maintenance projects. Parks and recreation chief Ron Olson of the Department of Natural Resources says the amount of the increase at a particular site depends on its popularity.
Minnesota Guard Not Going to Liberia After All
Members of the Minnesota National Guard have learned they won't be going to Liberia to help the U.S. military's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Soldiers from the Rosemount-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division were supposed to go to Liberia this year in support of Operation United Assistance.
One Man Dead After Car Accident in Aitkin County
A 47-year-old man died after his vehicle was broadsided in east-central Minnesota on Saturday night. The incident happened at the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 65 in Aitkin County at 9:35 p.m.