Mass screening for breast cancer using mammography is carried out with the aim of reducing the number of deaths due to breast cancer. Previous research has shown it to be effective at this, however studies have also suggested that screening may not reduce overall mortality. This has led to debate on the risks and benefit of mass breast cancer screening.
Given the controversies, researchers in France conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to analyse non-breast cancer mortality in women undergoing screening with mammography compared to those not undergoing screening. They included randomized controlled trials involving women over the age of 39 years with no history of breast cancer at baseline.
After 13 years of follow up, there was no excess mortality caused by screening, but the all-cause death rate was not significantly reduced in those undergoing screening. This highlights the complexity of the issue and may help improve information for patients.
Written by Stephanie Harriman, Deputy Medical Editor for BioMed Central.
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