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AACR Responds to Mammography Guidelines

December 15, 2009

Attribute to: Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research

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PHILADELPHIA – In October, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force issued a report that recommended significant changes in the guidelines for mammography screening. These included discontinuing regular, periodic screening for women between the ages of 40 and 50 years, and biannual screening for woman aged 50 to 65 years. The report, based on an analysis of studies from six major institutions and covering a 10-year period, has generated a high level of controversy among physicians, scientists and advocates, as well as women seeking answers as to when to begin breast cancer screening and how often to get it.

The American Association for Cancer Research recognizes that these are complex issues that encompass a broad range of areas – medical, scientific, public health, economic and sociological – and that the interpretation of these data can result in legitimate disagreement among respected leaders in their fields. The AACR believes that decisions on the delivery of screening methods and treatment of cancer should be evidence based and recognizes that the “state of the art” in the field is evolving and will continue to change as our understanding of the biology and genetics of cancer is better understood and translated into clinical practice.

This report has brought to the forefront a number of critical issues including the need for more sensitive, specific techniques for detecting early breast cancers, greater understanding of the natural history of non-invasive in-situ cancers, especially those found in younger women, and the differences in types of breast cancer that determine treatment and prognosis. We emphasize the importance of ongoing research into all of these critical areas, as exemplified by the remarkable work presented at the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held here Dec. 9-13, 2009. We also note that the mortality rates from breast cancer have been falling since the mid-1990s, and believe that this is attributable at least in part to the more widespread utilization of mammography screening and other factors.

This is an encouraging trend, and it is important that we not compromise the positive effects of increased awareness of breast cancer and utilization of screening methods by delivering confusing and contradictory messages to women seeking answers about their personal care. The issues, however, are simply too complex to make a clear statement at this time supporting either the existing guidelines or those proposed by the USPSTF. We advocate continued analysis of the data and discussion among the top experts in the field in order to resolve the issues related to the frequency and timing of breast cancer screening. It is essential that women and doctors discuss their individual situations and make informed decisions based on those risk factors. The AACR hopes that the publication of this report will spur continued research that will lead to greatly improved understanding of this disease and improved methods of preventing, detecting and treating breast cancer.

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 30,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and nearly 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowship and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 16,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. The AACR publishes six major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists. CR provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship and advocacy.

Media Contact:

Jeremy Moore
(609) 519-0212

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