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Breast Cancer Screening Does Not Decrease Death According to Study Covering 40 Years of Mammograms

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A newly released study conducted in the UK proposes that screening for breast cancer does not necessarily diminish the rate of deaths from the disease. The study, which looked at data spanning over a 40 year time period of mammograms, adds to the debate regarding whether or not it is the actual screening or improvement in treatment that is responsible for the drop in rates of death caused by breast cancer.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Department of Public Health at the University of Oxford, report their findings online in the June issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Lead author Toqir Mukhtar and her team looked at and evaluated mortality rates documented before and after 1988, the year during which the National Health Service Breast Screening Program first began.Breast-screening

The team was somewhat limited in the respect that they could only account for breast cancer deaths with the Oxford area, due to this being the only region of England where death certificates document all causes of death, and not simply highlighting the cause, before the commencement of the screening program.

Comparing and contrasting the data findings with death rates for England as a whole, the team found no tenable facts, in having 40 years of data, that suggested a greater cause of deaths in women other than those who underwent breast screening.

Such findings eventually challenged a prior study featured in The Lancelot in 2012, which reported that patients who are asked to come back for a mammogram screening have a 20 percent lower risk of breast cancer death than those who do receive the screening.

Yet, that particular study in 2012 also noted that for every death prevented by a breast cancer screening, three patients are usually over-diagnosed and treated for the disease.

Mukhtar clarifies the aim of her and her team’s study is not to discredit the positives in breast screenings for most women, but that any such result is not substantial enough to present at the population level.

In addition, Mukhtar also mentions the difficulties in attempting to gauge the overall effectiveness of mammogram screenings when the past 20 years have witnessed a tremendous strive in improved treatments and in the technology used to perform the screening. Mukhtar believes all these changes should be taken into account.

"Measuring the effectiveness of mammography screening is a fundamental area of concern in countries which have established mammography screening programs,” she said.

In conclusion Mukhtar notes that clinical trials prove one must wait for several years after a screening program, before any significant reductions in death are seen.

"Yet our data shows that there is no evidence of an effect of mammographic screening on breast cancer mortality at the population level over an observation period of almost 40 years,” she said.

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