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Efficacy of screening mammography among women aged 40 to 49 years and 50 to 69 years: comparison of relative and absolute benefit.

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  • Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, USA.


In randomized controlled trials, screening mammography has been shown to reduce mortality from breast cancer about 25% to 30% among women aged 50 to 69 years after only five to six years from the initiation of screening. Among women aged 40 to 49 years, trials have reported no reduction in breast cancer mortality after seven to nine years from the initiation of screening; after 10 to 14 years there is a 16% reduction in breast cancer mortality. Given that the incidence of breast cancer for women aged 40 to 49 years is lower and the potential benefit from mammography screening smaller and delayed, the absolute number of deaths prevented by screening women aged 40 to 49 years is much less than in screening women aged 50 to 69 years. Because the absolute benefit of screening women aged 40 to 49 years is small and there is concern that the harms are substantial, the focus should be to help these women make informed decisions about screening mammography by educating them of their true risk of breast cancer and the potential benefits and risks of screening.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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