Originally published April 7 2010
New study: Breast cancer deaths lower in areas without mammograms
by S. L. Baker, features writer
(NaturalNews) A 2005 study concluded that a push in Denmark to screen large numbers of women for breast cancer with mammography had reduced breast cancer deaths in Copenhagen by a whopping 25 percent. Sounds like proof that regular mammograms are truly life-savers, right? Wrong. Scientists from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen and the Folkehelseinstituttet in Oslo have re-examined this pro-mammogram study along with additional data and come up with an entirely different conclusion.
First, they found that the scientific validity of the 2005 study doesn't hold up because the research was deeply flawed. Even more important: the new report shows there's no evidence mammography itself was the reason behind any reduction in breast cancer deaths. In fact, deaths from breast cancer were lower in areas where women didn't undergo those screening tests.
The Danish research team looked at annual changes in breast cancer deaths in two Danish regions where breast cancer screening programs were offered to the public and compared this to data collected in non-screened regions throughout the rest of the country. To get a broad picture of the trend toward more or less breast cancer mortality, they analyzed breast malignancy rates in the decade before the screening was started and also looked at the ten years after screening was introduced.
The results showed that breast cancer deaths declined by 1% in women between the ages of 55 and 74 in the areas where regular mammography was frequently used. However, breast cancer rates went down more -- 2% per year -- in women of the same age living in non-screened areas. And this trend was the same in younger women, too. For those between the ages of 35 and 54, breast cancer mortality went down by 5% per year in the screened areas but it went down more, 6% per year, in the non-screened areas during the same time frame.
The researchers noted that there's no evidence that the drops in cancer deaths in the women screened for breast cancer had anything to do directly with mammograms, either. "We were unable to find an effect of the Danish screening program on breast cancer mortality," the researchers concluded in their study, which was just published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). "The reductions in breast cancer mortality we observed in screening regions were similar or less than those in non-screened areas and in younger age groups, and are more likely explained by changes in risk factors and improved treatment than by screening mammography."
The BMJ study also noted that for women in the oldest age group (75-84 years), there was virtually no breast cancer mortality difference between those who were in areas where breast screening was pushed on the public and in non-screened areas. As NaturalNews has previously reported, in the U.S. even elderly women who are not expected to live long because they suffer from severe dementia are often regularly subjected to the expense, discomfort and added x-ray exposure of mammography (http://www.naturalnews.com/028095_m...).
Two members of the same Danish research team that published the BMJ study also published an additional paper in the March edition of the Polish medical journal Polskie Archiwum Medycyny Wewnetrznej (Pol Arch Med Wewn). It directly addressed the balance between the supposed benefits and known harms of cancer screening programs. "By attending screening with mammography some women will avoid dying from breast cancer or receive less aggressive treatment. But many more women will be over-diagnosed, receive needless treatment, have a false-positive result, or live more years as a patient with breast cancer," they concluded.
Moreover, as readers of NaturalNews are aware, studies over the past few years have actually implicated mammograms in causing some breast cancers to develop in the first place. For example, a study published in the Archives of of Internal Medicine in 2008 found that the start of screening mammography programs throughout Europe has been associated with an increased incidence of breast cancer (http://www.naturalnews.com/024901.html).
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