News | October 18, 2009

Unscreened Women Constituted 75 Percent of Breast Cancer Deaths

October 19, 2009 - Unscreened women accounted for 75 percent of breast cancer deaths in an analysis of data on 6,997 invasive breast cancers diagnosed in 1990-1999 and followed through 2007, according to a study presented at the at the ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

In the study, Death from breast cancer occurs predominantly in women not participating in 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium (Abstract No: 24), researchers aimed to find how screening impacts death from breast cancer and to clarify results from a previous report, in which 75 percent of breast cancer deaths occurred in the small proportion of unscreened women. Although only 21 percent of Massachusetts women older than age 40 years were not in mammographic screening programs,

The study looked at 6,997 invasive breast cancer diagnoses that occurred in a large hospital consortium between 1990 and 1999. Among all subsequent deaths through 2007, breast cancer deaths in Massachusetts women were documented by actual review of hospital and out-patient records. Regular screening was defined as two or more screening mammograms at intervals of two years or less in asymptomatic women. 1995 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) mammography rates in Massachusetts were obtained.
Results showed that 345 breast cancer deaths (74.8 percent) occurred in women not regularly screened. The 1995 BRFSS determined that 79.3 percent of Massachusetts women over 40 had mammography within the previous two years. Therefore, 75 percent of breast cancer deaths occurred in the 20 percent of women not regularly screened, while 25 percent of deaths occurred in the 80 percent regularly screened.

The authors of the study concluded that the most effective method of avoiding death from breast cancer is for women to participate in regular screening mammography.

B. Cady, M. Webb, M. Webb, J. Michaelson, B. l. Smith; Cambridge Hospital, Brookline, MA; Harvard College, Cambridge, MA; Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Study: Death from breast cancer occurs predominantly in women not participating in mammographic screening

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