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Evid Based Med. 2013 Jun;18(3):83-9. doi: 10.1136/eb-2012-101216. Epub 2013 May 1.

Citations of scientific results and conflicts of interest: the case of mammography screening.

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Department 7811, Rigshospitalet, The Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark.



In 2001, a Cochrane review of mammography screening questioned whether screening reduces breast cancer mortality, and a more comprehensive review in Lancet, also in 2001, reported considerable overdiagnosis and overtreatment. This led to a heated debate and a recent review of the evidence by UK experts intended to be independent.


To explore if general medical and specialty journals differed in accepting the results and methods of three Cochrane reviews on mammography screening.


We identified articles citing the Lancet review from 2001 or updated versions of the Cochrane review (last search 20 April 2012). We explored which results were quoted, whether the methods and results were accepted (explicit agreement or quoted without caveats), differences between general and specialty journals, and change over time.


We included 171 articles. The results for overdiagnosis were not quoted in 87% (148/171) of included articles and the results for breast cancer mortality were not quoted in 53% (91/171) of articles. 11% (7/63) of articles in general medical journals accepted the results for overdiagnosis compared with 3% (3/108) in specialty journals (p=0.05). 14% (9/63) of articles in general medical journals accepted the methods of the review compared with 1% (1/108) in specialty journals (p=0.001). Specialty journals were more likely to explicitly reject the estimated effect on breast cancer mortality 26% (28/108), compared with 8% (5/63) in general medical journals, p=0.02.


Articles in specialty journals were more likely to explicitly reject results from the Cochrane reviews, and less likely to accept the results and methods, than articles in general medical journals. Several specialty journals are published by interest groups and some authors have vested interests in mammography screening.


Public Health; Qualitative Research

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