Vast study casts doubts on value of mammograms: NYT

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Well, well, well, what do you make of this study published in the British Medical Journal and reported in the New York Times?

One of the largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done, involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century, has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age.

It found that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not. And the screening had harms: One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

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Phua Kai Lit
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Phua Kai Lit

From the point of view of epidemiology:

This finding applies to the population overall and not necessarily to individuals i.e.
if we apply population level findings to individuals, we are commiting the
“ecological fallacy”. Mammograms can still be of benefit to individual patients.
The difficulty is determining which individuals should undergo a mammogram (while putting an
end to MASS SCREENING of populations using the mammogram)