New Mammogram Study Stirs Breast Cancer Debate

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A new Swedish study reported it pays for women in their 40s to get a mammogram, once again stirring the debate over when a woman should be screened for breast cancer.

Research presented Wednesday in the journal Cancer suggests the test lowers the risk of dying from the disease by 26 percent for women in that age group.

Of the roughly 40,000 U.S. breast cancer deaths each year, about 5,100 are women under the age of 50. But according to the American Cancer Society, many women who were diagnosed with the disease when they were younger, died when they were older.

"It's just one piece of evidence supporting the fact that screening women in their 40s does save lives," Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the society explained.   

"We believe that women in their 40s should be screened, but we also believe that women should be informed of the limitations of mammography," he said.

The Swedish study contradicts previous studies like one released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force last fall that said there was no reason for women to be screened until after age 50 because there were so few cases. The advice outraged many cancer screening advocates and even some members of Congress.
Supporters of the new study say when you start looking for cancer earlier, you find it earlier.

"If we screened all 22 million American women who are aged 40 to 49 this year, this study suggests it would translate to 2,000 to 2,200 lives saved," Brawley said.

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