Benefits Of Annual Mammography Outweigh Radiation Risks Of Cancer

Two studies suggest that annual mammography screening beginning at age 40 is not only safe but highly effective in reducing breast cancer deaths. Stephen A. Feig, M.D., professor of radiology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, and director of the Breast Imaging Center, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, has found that the benefits of annual mammography far outweigh the risk of developing breast cancer from accompanying radiation exposure. Feig presented his findings this week at the 83rd Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

The study compared the increases in life expectancies that women gained through screenings against those potentially lost to radiation-induced cancers. Dr. Feig analyzed a variety of studies on radiation risks and mammography benefits.

Dr. Feig notes that screening risks are negligible or nonexistent compared with the benefits. "No woman has ever been shown to have developed breast cancer from mammography," he notes. The possibility of reducing risk from mammography has been raised because of increased breast cancer incidence observed among Japanese victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, and by women who were treated with radiation therapy for benign breast conditions or who were given chest fluoroscopies during tuberculosis treatment in the 1920s. Such women received up to 2,500 times more radiation than a woman gets during a mammogram. Yet, he says, "there’s still this unfounded concern about getting cancer from mammography radiation."

Dr. Feig estimated that based on results from multiple screening trials conducted around the world, annual mammography screening would reduce death due to breast cancer by at least 35 percent in women aged 40 to 49 co

Contact: Steve Benowitz
Thomas Jefferson University

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