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J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 1997;(22):119-24.

Radiation risk from screening mammography of women aged 40-49 years.

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Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Although direct evidence of carcinogenic risk from mammography is lacking, there is a hypothetical risk from screening because excess breast cancers have been demonstrated in women receiving doses of 0.25-20 Gy. These high-level exposures to the breast occurred from the 1930s to the 1950s due to atomic bomb radiation, multiple chest fluoroscopies, and radiation therapy treatments for benign disease. Using a risk estimate provided by the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) V Report of the National Academy of Sciences and a mean breast glandular dose of 4 mGy from a two-view per breast bilateral mammogram, one can estimate that annual mammography of 100,000 women for 10 consecutive years beginning at age 40 will result in at most eight breast cancer deaths during their lifetime. On the other hand, researchers have shown a 24% mortality reduction from biennial screening of women in this age group; this will result in a benefit-to-risk ratio of 48.5 lives saved per life lost and 121.3 years of life saved per year of life lost. An assumed mortality reduction of 36% from annual screening would result in 36.5 lives saved per life lost and 91.3 years of life saved per year of life lost. Thus, the theoretical radiation risk from screening mammography is extremely small compared with the established benefit from this life-saving procedure and should not unduly distract women under age 50 who are considering screening.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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