Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Another slam for the mammogram

Mammogram.jpgResearchers have thrown more fuel into the mammogram fire, arguing that the harm of radiation from the yearly tests might outweigh the benefits of regular screening.

A team led by Marijke Jansen-van der Weide, an epidemiologist at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, pooled data from six earlier studies that analyzed the medical histories of around 5,000 women in the United States and Europe who were at high risk of developing breast cancer. The researchers found that women who had mammograms or chest X-rays — which involve less radiation than mammography — were more likely to have breast cancer, especially if exposed frequently or at a young age. The results were presented yesterday at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

The new findings add to the controversy triggered by a recent opinion article in The Journal of the American Medical Association questioning the effectiveness of breast cancer screening and a report by a US government task force advising women to start having routine mammograms later in life and less frequently than had previously been recommended. Frequent and early mammograms often lead to false alarms, many scientists and doctors have argued. Some have also pointed out that less testing can reign in the costs of health care.

Jansen-van der Weide suggested that high-risk women may want to consider alternative screening methods, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But are MRI’s the solution? This magnetic imaging technique often has higher rates of false positives, and can be much more expensive than mammography.

Perhaps the solution is computer software. A new technique, dubbed elastography, can help determine whether a suspicious breast lump found in an ultrasound is cancerous, researchers also reported yesterday at the radiology meeting. (Reuters)

Image: National Cancer Institute


  1. Report this comment

    Sergio Stagnaro said:

    The worst in today’s Medicine is that women without Oncological Terrain-Dependent Inherited Real Risk of breast cancer are told of the “necessity” to undergo periodically to mammography examination. Middle Ages of toda’s Medicine (Ask