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Int J Radiat Biol. 2002 Dec;78(12):1065-7.

Routine screening mammography: how important is the radiation-risk side of the benefit-risk equation?

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Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The potential radiation hazards associated with routine screening mammography, in terms of breast cancer induction, are discussed in the context of the potential benefits. The very low energy X-rays used in screening mammography (26-30 kVp) are expected to be more hazardous, per unit dose, than high-energy X- or gamma-rays, such as those to which A-bomb survivors (from which radiation risk estimates are derived) were exposed. Based on in vitro studies using oncogenic transformation and chromosome aberration end-points, as well as theoretical estimates, it seems likely that low doses of low-energy X-rays produce an increased risk per unit dose (compared with high energy photons) of about a factor of 2. Because of the low doses involved in screening mammography, the benefit-risk ratio for older women would still be expected to be large, though for younger women the increase in the estimated radiation risk suggests a somewhat later age than currently recommended--by about 5-10 years--at which to commence routine breast screening.

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