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Study: 1.3 Million Women Overdiagnosed for Breast Cancer

A new study says that routine mammograms have caused more than a million U.S. women to receive “unnecessary and invasive cancer treatments over the last 30 years."

Gilbert Welch, of Dartmouth Medical School and Archie Bleyer of the Oregon Health & Science University, led this new study, which was published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, reports AFP.

Welch and Bleyer wrote: "We estimated that breast cancer was overdiagnosed — i.e., tumors were detected on screening that would never have led to clinical symptoms — in 1.3 million US women in the past 30 years. We estimated that in 2008, breast cancer was overdiagnosed in more than 70,000 women; this accounted for 31% of all breast cancers diagnosed.”

They said that the significant drop in breast cancer deaths was because of improvement in treatments, not early detection through mammograms.

The study encouraged women and doctors to consider the harmful effects of unnecessary radiation exposure, the anxiety associated with false-positive findings and the costs of additional imaging.

The government's Preventive Task Force said in 2009 that primary care physicians should not recommend mammograms to women under 40 years of age. At the time, the Obama administration was attacked by Republicans who tried to use the Preventive Task Force's advisory to undermine Obamacare, which had not yet been voted on.


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