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Junk Science? Number 13: Screening Mammograms are dangerous

Junk Science Number 12. The Nordic Cochrane Institute: Screening Mammograms cause net harm. Confirmed!

When the Nordic Cochrane Centre concluded from a meta-study on (largely synthetic) vitamins that they seem to do no good and may even cause harm, it was front page news in the National papers. However, when the same prestigious Institution tells the world that a thorough analysis of mammography research shows that mammography definitely does cause harm, you are lucky to find a passing mention in the press.

 Yet, their research conclusions have now been confirmed by an independent study. We are not surprised. At CANCERactive we have been telling you this for nearly 9 years!

 The Nordic Cochrane Institute have just produced a leaflet on the benefits and harm of screening mammography. I will just give you the top line.

If 2,000 women are regularly screened for 10 years,

 * 1 (one!) woman will benefit, and she will avoid dying from breast cancer.

* 200 women will get false positives.

* 10 of these women will be treated with surgery (lumpectomy or full breast removal) and chemotherapy and radiotherapy, increasing their risk of heart and lung problems.

Are they right in their claims? Researchers at Southampton University set out to ‘assess the claim in a Cochrane review that mammographic breast cancer screening could be doing more harm than good’.

The findings published in the British Medical Journal, December 2011 agreed with Cochrane and stated that mammograms indeed have ‘caused net harm for up to 10 years after the start of screening’.

James Raftery, lead researcher at Southampton added, “The default is to assume that screening must be good; catching something early must be good, but if a woman has an unnecessary mastectomy, or chemotherapy or radiation, that’s a tragedy. It’s difficult to balance the gain of one life against 200 false positives and 10 unnecessary surgeries”.

Back to Cochrane, who say that nowadays with women much more ‘breast aware’ and with a new generation of diagnostics and treatments, the need for mammographic screening has simply become outdated.

“It therefore no longer seems reasonable to attend for breast cancer screening. In fact, by avoiding going to screening, a woman will LOWER her risk of getting a breast cancer diagnosis.”

The fact is that screening creates breast cancer patients out of healthy women who would never have developed symptoms. And treatment of these healthy women increases their risk of dying from both heart disease and cancer itself.

See our full article on mammograms at

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