October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mammography, which is a 2.1 billion dollar industry in the US, has become quite controversial. The US Preventive Services Task Force now recommends biannual screening starting at age 50, instead of annual screening starting at age 40 .
Does Mammography Save Lives?
A July 2011 study by Autier published in the British Medical Journal showed that screening mammography had no impact on mortality from breast cancer in screened populations. (1) The authors found that breast cancer mortality was “comparable” in three pairs of similar European countries despite a 10-15 year difference in implementing screening mammography. The researchers conclude that the similarity in mortality reduction between the country pairs do not suggest that a large proportion of the mortality reduction after 1990 can be attributed to mammography screening. They believe that Improvements in treatment and in the efficiency of healthcare systems may be more plausible explanations.
“Our study adds further population data to the evidence of studies that have used various designs and found that mammography screening by itself has little detectable impact on mortality due to breast cancer.”
You can read more about the mammography debate, and information about the alternative, thermography here: