Study: Breast Cancer Screening Has Little To Do With Falling Death Rates

Written by Jessica Smith on Aug. 03, 2011

Screening has little to do with the reducing deaths of those that have breast cancer, says a new report by the British Medical Journal. The argument from lead author Philippe Autier, M.D. is that reduced mortality in places such as the United States and in most western European countries is because of “better care” rather than early detection screening and early treatment.

However, the ACR (American College of Radiology) and SBI (Society of Breast Imaging) have jumped in on the story, questioning the controversial study.

The ACR and SBI are defending breast screenings in the United States, saying that there were big drops in death rates in the mid-1980s and early-1990s shortly after the technology was introduced and became a routine way of checking if women have the malignant tumor. Moreover, they added that before the technology was introduced, death rates in the United States had been relatively the same year-after-year and that it was only after breast screenings were introduced that death rates started to decrease.

“These conclusions have little bearing on, or resemblance to, screening in the United States where mammography’s life-saving impact is well documented,” ACR and SBI wrote in a joint statement.

While the study by BMJ concluded that breast cancer screening “has not played a direct part in the reductions of breast cancer mortality”, screening programs for cervical cancer and colorectal cancer remain successful in reducing deaths, the study says.