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More worrisome mammogram news

There's more cautionary news about mammograms: Young women at high risk for breast cancer actually may be increasing their chances of contracting the disease by getting annual mammograms, according to a new analysis.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federally appointed panel of experts, set off a huge debate recently by recommending that most women could wait until they turn 50 before starting to undergo routine mammograms and could get them every other year instead of annually.

The panel concluded that routinely seeking mammograms earlier and more often wasn't worth the harm caused by false alarms. While many experts and breast cancer advocates welcomed the new guidelines, they came under heavy criticism from some, including the American Cancer Society.

Now, Marijke C. Jansen-van der Weide, an epidemiologist at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, and colleagues report the results of an analysis of the medical literature to determine whether low-dose radiation exposure affects the breast cancer risk among high-risk women.

Of 47 articles found on the subject, six were included in the analysis. Four looked at the effect of exposure of low-dose radiation among women who had genes that put them at risk for breast cancer, and two looked at the effect of radiation on women with a famiy history of breast cancer.

The researchers found that among high-risk women, low-dose radiation exposure increased the risk of breast cancer by about 50 percent. It was especially high among the youngest women--those who were exposed before age 20 had more than double the risk, the researchers reported at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

The researchers cautioned that the analysis was based on a relatively small sample and needs to be interpreted carefully. And the findings don't necessarily mean that women at high risk of contracting breast cancer should not get mammograms.

But the results provide more evidence that women should discuss the decision about when and how often to get mammograms with their doctors so they can carefully weigh the risks and benefits, the researchers say.

By Rob Stein  |  December 2, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cancer , Prevention , Women's Health  
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None of this is news to any physician who is not in a coma... No competent physician that I am aware of is doing routine mammograms on women under 40 UNLESS there is a compelling medical reason...

But the mammogram machine is a two edged sword... Once you have exposed tissue with oncogenic proclivity to X-radiation, even just once, then you are obligated to keep doing annual mammograms to look for cancers possibly caused by the radiation exposure...

dr. o

Posted by: ad4hk2004 | December 2, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Finally, someone is pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. I never thought this message would be heard above the noise being generated by the mammogram industry. I mean, how are these doctors going to pay for their mansions in the Hamptons if women stop being brainwashed into annual mammograms? Not to mention that the price of pink paint is going to plummet.

Women, be smart. Stop using your emotions, get to know the odds, and use them to your advantage. And don't believe everything your doctor or the pink ribbon societies tell you...

Posted by: jerkhoff | December 2, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

If you're a young woman whose mother/grandmother/aunt was taken from you early because of this disease and you feel yourself to be at risk you could care less about increased risk due to early screening.

In that person's thinking the risk of testing is totally overshadowed by the consquences of the disease.

The sorry fact is, if you have breast cancer and it's not wiped out with your first treatment and it returns you will die from it, usually within 5 years.

Posted by: RedBird27 | December 2, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Why are there no Oncologists on the US Preventive Services Task Force? I find it extremely disturbing that a group that contains two Pediatricians is making cancer screening recommendations for adult women. This reminds me of the time Bush II wanted to name a vetrinarian to the NIH for Women's Health.

Posted by: Arggg | December 2, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Finally! This is exactly what my mother's oncologist told her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. An extra decade of mammograms, because her mother died of it, likely contributed to her cancer, add to that the hormones she was prescribed and I wonder how much natural "risk" she really had. Even then, the doctors estimated the cancer had been growing for years before tests could find it. Too many woman think a mammogram equals automatic protection. Not true. Mammograms don't find everything. Yes, they help, but until a better kind of test is developed, there will always be women who are diagnosed too late to be cured.

Posted by: sjneal | December 2, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

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