The defensive role mammogram screening plays in the early stages of breast cancer has been disputed by Swedish researchers.
According to an analysis of cancer mortality statistics, mammography screenings have a limited (if any) effect on the number of deaths.
The study published in the Journal of The National Cancer Institute examined whether higher levels mammogram screenings for women aged 40-69 over past decades have saved lives.
The researchers expected that regular screenings would be associated with a gradual reduction in mortality, according to a statement.
However, they found that breast cancer mortality rates in Swedish women started to decrease in 1972, before the introduction of mammography, and have continued to decline at a rate similar to that in the prescreening period.
"It seems paradoxical that the downward trends in breast cancer mortality in Sweden have evolved practically as if screening had never existed," write the study’s authors.
"Swedish breast cancer mortality statistics are consistent with studies that show limited or no impact of screening on mortality from breast cancer."
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Their findings are consistent with other studies that have reported that screening has limited or no impact on breast cancer mortality among women of that age group.
However, researchers are keen to highlight the positive role screenings may have played in protect women from the disease
“The presence of an organized screening program may have promoted the provision of more effective care by monitoring the treatment quality of screen-detected cancers and by favoring the creation of multidisciplinary units of breast cancer specialists".
According to a statement, Michael W. Vannier of the Department of Radiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, wrote in an accompanying editorial that without a better alternative, mammography screening will continue to be used.
"As our tools improve, we can begin to fully realize the promise of breast cancer screening to arrest this dread disease at its earliest stage with the least morbidity and cost," he wrote.
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