Controversial Breast Cancer Screening Does Save Lives
September 7, 2012

Controversial Breast Cancer Screening Does Save Lives

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Bald is beautiful. Just ask country music sensation, Kellie Pickler, who recently shaved her head in solidarity for a friend who was to undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer. Pickler decided to take action to educate others on the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Her actions follows recent research from the University of Melbourne that found that breast cancer screenings can help save lives and cuts the risk in half of dying from the disease.

The study, hailed as the largest of its kind in Australia and one of the largest conducted in the world, tracked approximately 4,000 women who participated in the BreastScreen program in Western Australia. The researchers from the Melbourne School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne believe that the results showcase the importance and effectiveness of having a mammogram. The findings were recently published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.

“It is important that Australian women have accurate information about the pros and cons of participating in BreastScreen. The findings of this study may help women decide whether to participate,” commented Dr. Carolyn Nickson, a University of Melbourne Research Fellow, in a prepared statement.

The project included women who were between the ages of 50 and 69 years of age, which is the target age range for mammograms. Of the 4,000 women, there were 427 cases where women had passed away due to breast cancer. The study included 3,650 control women who were still living when the other participants had died.

Comparing the screening attendance between the two groups, the researchers discovered that the rate of screenings was much lower for women who had passed away as a result of breast cancer. This finding proved to be consistent with past studies completed in Southern Australia and other parts of the world. When compared with other studies, the scientists found that, on average, there was a 49 percent reduced risk of dying if screenings were conducted.

“Early detection is the key to early treatment and the free BreastScreen program is the best health service available to detect breast cancers earlier in women aged 50-69 years,” continued Nickson in the statement.

However, a few other studies have found that screenings do not decrease the risk of dying from breast cancer. In regards to these studies, the researchers claim that the studies do not compare the results of individual women.

“Sound research methods have been used in this study. I believe it is time to move on from the debate about whether screening reduces mortality and to instead direct research resources to help improve the program for women who choose to use it,” noted Nickson in the statement.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during the course of a lifetime. Risk factors that affect the development of breast cancer include age and gender, family history, genetic, menstrual cycle, as well as alcohol use. To help individuals understand risks for breast cancer, the National Cancer Institute has also provided an online interactive tool.