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J Med Screen. 1998;5(2):81-7.

Radiation risk of mammography related to benefit in screening programmes: a favourable balance?

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To estimate the number of breast cancer deaths induced by low dose radiation in breast cancer screening programmes compared with numbers prevented.

METHODS:

A computer simulation model on the natural history of breast cancer was combined with a model from BEIR-V on induced breast cancer mortality from low levels of radiation. The improvement in prognosis resulting from screening was based on the results of the Swedish overview of the randomised screening trials for breast cancer and the performance of screening in the Netherlands. Different scenarios (ages and intervals) were used to explore the objectives. Sensitivity analyses were carried out for latency period, dose of mammography, sensitivity of the screening test, early detection by screening of induced breast tumours, and new 1996 risk estimates by Howe and McLaughlin.

RESULTS:

For a screening programme, age group 50-69, two year interval, 2 mGy per view, the balance between the number of deaths induced versus those prevented was favourable: 1:242. When screening is expanded to the age group 40-49 with a one or two year interval the results may be less favourable, that is, 1:66 and 1:97. According to these scenarios and with the Dutch scenario as reference, one breast cancer death from radiation may be expected to occur to save eight extra deaths from breast cancer. If screening was equally effective in young women as in women aged 50-69, the marginal value was 1:+/- 30. Assuming detection of induced cancers by screening could influence the ratios by about 30%, but did not substantially change the conclusions. The new risk estimates by Howe and McLaughlin resulted in five times to eight times favourable ratios breast cancer deaths induced to prevented. Besides age group of screening, dose of mammography is the other determinant of risk.

CONCLUSIONS:

For screening under the age of 50, the balance between the number of breast cancer deaths prevented by screening compared with the number induced by radiation seem less favourable. Credibility intervals were however wide, because of many uncertainties of radiation risk at very low doses.

PMID:
9718526
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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