Women in Their 40s May Benefit from Early Mammograms

According to the New York Times, a recent study has found that the breast cancer death rate can be cut down by 26% for women in their 40s by undergoing mammograms. The study conducted by Dr. Laszlo Tabar, professor of radiology at the University of Uppsala School of Medicine in Sweden, Dr. Stephen Duffy, an epidemiologist at University of London, and Hakan Jonsson, professor of cancer epidemiology at Umea University in Sweden.

The study came about as a reaction to the different cancer screening guidelines set forth by different countries since 1986. For instance, Sweden has been endorsing women in their 40s to undergo mammograms, while in the United States most women are told to wait until theirs 50s.

The study’s authors compared the death rates in women diagnosed with breast cancer in counties in Sweden had screening against counties that did not. The report concluded that countries with breast cancer screening had an overall 26% lower mortality rate for women in their 40s.

The findings were published in the Journal of Cancer and will be presented in front of the American Society for Clinical Oncology at an upcoming meeting. The findings reversed the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s 2009 report on cancer screening guidelines that questioned the benefits of mammograms in women younger than 50.

While many praised the study, some critics were not convinced by the findings. Dr. Peter C. Gotzche of the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen claims that the research is flawed because early screenings can find cancers that might not have been deadly, even if found later. By not comparing broader breast cancer death rates, the researchers may be calculating unrealistically optimistic survival rates.

This concern with overdiagnosis can affect the accuracy of the study, however, the findings offer an interesting insight into early diagnosis. Perhaps future studies will find confirm the benefits of early screenings with more precision.

To Your Health & Beauty,

Kent V. Hasen, M.D.

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