HealthDay News — There is little evidence that screening prevents breast cancer deaths among female patients aged 40 to 49 years, according to a research review published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This report adds to the longstanding debate about the efficacy of breast cancer screenings.

To assess the cancer-preventive and adverse effects of different methods of screening for breast cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer surveyed experts from 16 countries.

What the investigators found largely confirmed what experts have long said: for women aged 50 to 75 years, routine mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. For women in their aged 40 to 49 years, however, the agency found only limited evidence of such a benefit.

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Still, one panel member said that conclusion was far from unanimous. “The group was split down the middle, at least when it came to women aged 45 to 49 years,” Robert Smith, PhD, vice president of the American Cancer Society, told HealthDay.

“Half of us thought the data were sufficient to say [screening mammography] reduces breast cancer mortality. Others were not persuaded.”

Smith stressed that all women should be fully informed of the downsides going into screening. But as far as the cancer society is concerned, he said, the evidence of benefit to women in their 40s is sufficient.


  1. Lauby-Secretan B et al. NEJM. 2015; doi: 10.1056/NEJMsr1504363.