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A strong case for mammography sooner.

A strong case for mammography sooner

The strongest evidence yet that mammography significantly reduces breast cancer deaths in women under 50 comes from a new analysis of a long-term U.S. study, begun in the early 1960s. Kenneth C. Chu and researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., report a 24 percent reduction in death from breast cancer in women aged 40 to 49 who underwent mammography and a physician's breast examination annually for three years. Patients in the control group followed their "usual" pattern of medical care. At that time, physicians rarely used mammography to screen for breast cancer and even breast examinations may not have been periodic, Chu told SCIENCE NEWS.

Previous reports from the Health Insurance Plan study of 61,000 women living in the New York City area showed a significant reduction in breast cancer deaths for women aged 50 to 64, but not for the younger group. The researchers attribute the new findings in part to longer follow-up of 742 patients for at least 18 years. Dutch and Swedish studies that do not show benefit to younger women from mammography have shorter follow-up periods, the researchers say. They also point out that the Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project--a five-year study by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute that ended in 1978 -- which supports the benefits of screening sooner, was not a randomized trial. In the Health Insurance Plan study women were assigned at random to a study or control group.

The research team hopes the study, which is described in the Sept. 21 JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE, will help settle the debate about screening women under age 50.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 1, 1988
Words:281
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