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Women 'over-diagnosed' with breast cancer, researchers say
In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, Monash University breast cancer researchers Robin Bell and Robert Burton called for women invited to use the country's publicly-funded BreastScreen program to be presented with a more balanced view about the benefits and harms of breast screening.
Their analysis found that improvements in cancer treatments, rather than early detection through screening, were likely to have caused the 21 to 28 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths since the program began in 1991, the Herald Sun reported Monday.
A 2010 study found that for every 2000 women invited for screening throughout 10 years, one would have her life prolonged but 10 healthy women would be diagnosed as breast cancer patients and treated unnecessarily.
The Cancer Council has backed calls for women to be informed about the risks and benefits of screening, including the uncertainty of over-diagnosis, but insist that breast screening has contributed substantially to an overall drop in breast cancer deaths. It said three evaluations of mammography screening for women aged 50-69 years had put the reduction in breast cancer mortality at between 30 and 47 percent.
Bell, an associate professor, said the benefits of the BreastScreen program were overblown.
Do the benefits of screening mammography outweigh the harms of overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment?
David M Roder and Ian N Olver MJA 2012; 196 (1): 16 doi: 10.5694/mja11.11466 Yes. Public health adviser David Roder and Cancer Council Australia CEO Ian Olver believe the reduction in breast cancer mortality in Australia reflects both treatment and screening effects