Breast screening and mastectomy link refuted

A STUDY linking breast cancer screening with higher rates of mastectomy has been downplayed by an Australian expert who says the national mammography program here has the opposite effect.

Dr Helen Zorbas, CEO of Cancer Australia, was commenting on a study of more than 35,000 women in Norway, which found those aged 50–69 years had a 31% increased relative risk of mastectomy after the program was introduced.

The study found the mastectomy rate rose 9% in women in the screening program aged 50–69 diagnosed with breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), whereas it declined 17% in women aged 40–49 years who were not invited to screening.

Dr Zorbas said it was not surprising that more cases were detected and surgery rates increased with screening. But once the program was established, mastectomy rates for all ages dropped, reflecting the Australian experience, she said.

“Breast cancers [detected by screening] are