Following the explosive findings of a recent study on the effectiveness of breast cancer screenings, British researchers are now admitting that breast cancer screening does more harm than good. For years the medical establishment has been pushing enhanced screening techniques on women of an increasingly younger age. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.
Researchers found that these recommended screenings may actually lead to unnecessary surgeries, due to abnormal results that turn out to be completely normal. According to lead researcher James Raftery, the screenings oftentimes lead to the treatment of harmless conditions that would otherwise never have caused symptoms or death. Raftery, a professor of health-technology assessment at the University of Southampton, led researchers in analyzing 100,000 women ages 50 and over.
Previous scientific research has drawn similar conclusions, reporting that there is evidence breast cancer screening may actually lead to more aggressive treatment. Adding fuel to the fire, another groundbreaking study published in The Lancet Oncology showed for the first time that many screen-detected invasive breast tumors spontaneously regress when undiagnosed and untreated.
In their research, Raftery and his team observed that the inclusion of false positives and unnecessary surgery reduced the benefits of screening by half. It is important to note that the study did not examine the additional effects of radiation exposure that goes along with highly popular mammogram screenings. Despite not including this important aspect, the researchers said that the Forrest report of 1986 omitted harmful effects from screening – the report which measured costs and benefits from screening in quality-adjusted life years.
“Harms largely offset the gains up to 10 years, after which the gains accumulate at an increasing rate,” Raftery wrote in the published paper. “The meaning and implications of overdiagnosis and overtreatment need to be much better explained and communicated to any woman considering screening.”
The research seems clear: the science behind breast cancer screening points towards the process being unsafe and ineffective the majority of the time. In addition, many of these ‘detected’ breast tumors will spontaneously regress without any form of treatment or diagnosis.