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Mammography Screening Reduced Risk for Death From Breast Cancer by Half

December 6, 2011
  • Those who attended three screenings before diagnosis had lower mortality.
  • Strongest reduction seen in women aged between 70 and 75 years old.
  • Stage IV tumors were most prevalent among those never screened.

PHILADELPHIA — A new case-control study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, shows that women who participated in at least three screening mammograms had a 49 percent lower risk for breast cancer mortality.

“Our study adds further evidence that mammography screening unambiguously reduces breast cancer mortality,” said Suzie Otto, Ph.D., a senior researcher in the department of public health at the Erasmus MC at Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Otto and colleagues observed 755 patients who died from breast cancer during 1995 to 2003 and matched them with 3,739 controls. Among the breast cancer cases, 29.8 percent were detected at screening, 34.3 percent were detected between screenings and 35.9 percent had never been screened.

Stage IV tumors were present in 29.5 percent of the never-screened cases but only 5.3 percent of the screen-detected cases.

If women attended at least three screenings prior to diagnosis, their risk for mortality from breast cancer reduced by 49 percent. The greatest reduction was seen in women aged between 70 and 75 years old, where the reduction in mortality was 84 percent. Among younger women (aged 50 to 69 years old), the reduction was smaller, at 39 percent, but still statistically significant.

Otto said the findings could be applicable in the United States in principle, but the United States lacks a centrally organized government-funded program similar to what is found in the Netherlands.

“The Dutch government considers it imperative that everyone eligible for a screening program is given the opportunity to participate,” said Otto. “For that reason, all women in the targeted age group are invited and given the opportunity to decide independently to participate or not in screening programs that are entirely free of charge.”

Otto and colleague’s study was funded by the Dutch Health Care Insurance Council and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(215) 446-7109
Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org

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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 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 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 fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad, and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 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, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.

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