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More than half a million breast cancer deaths were rejected in the United States over three decades

breast cancer

Mammograms showing a normal breast (left) and a breast with cancer (right). Credit: Public domain

Recent US estimates show that hundreds of thousands of women's lives since 1989 have been rescued by mammograms and improvements in breast cancer treatment. Published early online in Cancer, a peer reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the results point to progress in early detection and control of breast cancer.

Screening mammograms to detect breast cancer were widely available in the mid-1980s and various effective therapies have been developed since then. To estimate the number of breast cancer deaths that were averted since 1989 due to the collective effects of both screening mammography and improved treatment, R. Edward Hendrick, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Jay Baker, MD, Duke University Medical Center and Mark Helvie, MD, from the University of Michigan Health System, analyzed breast cancer mortality and female population data for US women aged 40 to 84 over the past three decades.

Cumulative breast cancer deaths declined from 1990 to 2015, ranging from more than 305,000 women to more than 483,000 women, depending on various background mortality assumptions. By extrapolating results to 2018, cumulative breast cancer deaths since 1989 decreased from 384,000 to 614,500. When considering only 2018, an estimated 27,083 to 45,726 breast cancer deaths were reversed. The investigators calculated that mammography and improved treatment reduced the expected mortality of breast cancer in 2018 by 45.3 to 58.3 percent.

"Recent reviews of mammography screening have focused media attention on some of the risks of screening mammograms, such as recalling additional imaging and breast biopsies, reflecting the most important aspect of screening. Finding and treating breast cancer saves women early on. Our study shows where effectively the combination of early detection and modern breast cancer treatment has been averted of breast cancer deaths, Hendrick.

He noted that only about half of American women over the age of 40 receive regular screening mammograms. "The best possible long-term effect of our results would be to help women recognize that early detection and modern, personal breast cancer treatment saves lives and encourages more women to be screened annually from 40 years onwards."

Dr. Helvie added that further benefits are likely to be realized as research continues. "While expecting new scientific advances that further reduce breast cancer death and morbidity, it is important that women continue to adhere to existing screening and treatment recommendations," he said.

Screening has had a small impact on declining breast cancer deaths in the Netherlands

More information:
"Breast cancer deaths reversed over three decades." R. Edward Hendrick, Jay A. Baker and Mark A. Helvie. Cancer (2019). DOI: 10.1002 / cncr.31954

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More than half a million breast cancer deaths were rejected in the US over three decades (2019, February 11)
February 11, 2019
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