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General Health : Drug News Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Mammogram screening increases death risk in BRCA carriers
By Sue Mueller
Jan 30, 2009 - 4:28:49 PM

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Jan 30, 2009 ( -- All women at certain age are encouraged to start receiving mammogram screening. But a new report warned that this x-ray-based so called preventative method does more harm than good in young women with BRCA mutations.

The study published in the journal of the National Cancer Institute found mammogram screening actually increased the risk of breast cancer mortality in those BRCA1 or BRCA2 carriers who started the procedure as early as 25 to 30 years of age.

Dr. Amy Berrington de Gonzalez from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and colleagues went through data from 22 pedigree studies of 8139 patients and estimated that 26 per 10,000 women with BRCA1 would die from radiation-induced breast cancer if they started mammogram screening at 25 to 29 years of age.

In comparison, if women with BRCA1 started mammogram screening at the age of 30 to 34 years or 35 to 39 years, their risk of dying from radiation-induced breast cancer fell to 20 or 13 per 10,000 respectively.

The researchers estimated that to overcome the radiation-induced death risk, mammogram screening would have to cut the risk of breast cancer mortality in three groups of women starting the procedure at the age of 25 to 29; 30 to 34 years and 35 to 39 years by 51, 12 and 4 percent respectively.

The estimates are similar for women with BRCA2 mutation, according to the researchers whose findings suggest that women with either or both types of mutations should not start mammogram screening before age 35 to 39 because for them the procedure does more harm than good.

Mammogram screening is believed to reduce breast cancer mortality by no more than 25 percent in young women.  Only in older women with BRCA mutation(s), the procedure may confer a net benefit.


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