Mammography does not increase risk of breast cancer in high-risk women

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Wednesday March 22, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Tuesday March 22, 2006.

Mammography screening does not increase risk of breast cancer in women who have a particular genetic mutation, known as a BRCA mutation, according to researchers reporting online in The Lancet Oncology. "These findings do not lend support to the idea that exposure to ionizing radiation through routine screening mammography contributes substantially to the burden of breast cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers", says lead author Steven Narod.

Women with BRCA mutations have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, therefore they often start mammography screening at an earlier age than women without these mutations. Researchers have postulated that risk of breast cancer for these women might be further increased because of repeated and early screening and because they might be more susceptible to radiation damage compared with women without these mutations. But, findings from a case-control study of 1600 matched pairs suggest such concerns might be unwarranted.

The researchers found no association between those that had ever had mammography compared with those that had never been screened by this method.

Prof Narod states "Prospective studies are needed to confirm the results of this initial report. The decision of whether to offer mammography screening to high-risk women should be based first on an assessment of the sensitivity of the screening tool and the potential benefits of early detection in this high-risk group".

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Contact: Prof Steven Narod, Centre for Research in Women's Health, 790 Bay Street Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1N8, Canada. T) +1 416 351 3765 steven.narod@sw.ca


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