Call for review of breast cancer screening program

Research presented to the Australasian Menopause Society Congress in Melbourne this week found the modest contribution of screening to breast cancer mortality reduction had been accompanied by “substantial overdiagnosis”.

National data from 1990–2007 revealed women aged in their 40s who had the lowest BreastScreen participation (20%) also had the largest mortality reduction (44%), while women aged 60–69 years, with the highest BreastScreen participation (60%), had the smallest mortality reduction (19%).

It was argued that improvements in adjuvant therapy, including chemotherapy and endocrinology, were responsible for most of the 28% reduction in breast cancer mortality in Australia since 1991, when BreastScreen started.

Epidemiologist Professor Robin Bell, study co-author and deputy director of the Women’s Health Program, Monash University, compared the controversy to that surrounding PSA testing for prostate cancer and