Screening not all clear

When headlines hit the papers about a young celebrity getting breast cancer, or someone in their 30s or 40s is diagnosed, the benefits of breast screening seem to be overwhelmingly apparent.

In Australia, guidelines recommend that women aged 50–69 years have mammograms every two years, while women aged 40–49 and those over 70 are eligible for screening if they choose, but are not actively recruited. 

This approach is supported by evidence that screening programs have led to a 30% reduction in mortality thanks to early detection. 

But recently in an editorial in the British Journal of Medicine,1 Oxford University professor of public health Klim McPherson argued that the benefits of screening are not as clear cut as proponents would have women believe and that there’s a real need for more up-to-date evidence. 

The randomised control trials that current recommendations are based on took place more than a