Women who often undergo mammography may be exposed to more harm than good, according to a new study.
Mammography remains as the most popular method of breast cancer screening, and women who undergo the procedure heighten their chances of detecting the disease early on. However, a team of researchers from Harvard University discovered that an increase in the number of breast cancer screening procedures didn’t result to reduction in fatalities associated with breast cancer.
The study involved analysis of data of at least 16 million females 40 years old and above from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry across 547 U.S. counties. More than 53,000 women were found with breast cancer, and were monitored for the next 10 years.
Results of the study showed that a 10-percent increase in the number of mammogram procedures was linked to a 16-percent rise in identification of breast cancer. But despite having more breast cancer screening, deaths due to the disease did not decrease. Meanwhile, the rise in screening procedures resulted to a significant 25 percent increase in detection of small tumors that led to breast cancer. “Across US counties, the data show that the extent of screening mammography is indeed associated with an increased incidence of small cancers but not with decreased incidence of larger cancers or significant differences in mortality,” said study co-author Richard Wilson in a news release.
The research team explained that having too many screenings may have affected the relationship between breast cancer detection and mortality rate. “The simplest explanation is widespread overdiagnosis, which increases the incidence of small cancers without changing mortality, and therefore matches every feature of the observed data,” Wilson added.
More details about the study were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.