A new study reveals that reduced breast cancer-related mortality can be attributed to both increases in mammogram screening and improvements in treatment methods.
While the rates of death due to breast cancer have diminished by 34% between 1990 and 2010, there is some debate over whether early detection via mammography has played a role in this reduction. Since this time the recommendations have been for women to have a mammogram every year from the age of 50. A study published this month in the journal Cancer investigated whether mammogram screening has contributed to the reductions in breast cancer-related death seen during this time period.
The study included 2 998 women between the ages of 50-69 years with stage I-III breast cancer. The study found that mammogram screening was responsible for the largest reduction in risk of dying from breast cancer, when compared with hormone therapy or treatment with taxanes. However, both hormone therapy and treatment with taxanes were also associated with reduction of risk of dying from breast cancer. The researchers therefore suggest that a combination of improvement in detection as well as improvement in treatment methods is likely responsible for the relative risk reduction. The researchers conclude that improvement in outcomes for breast cancer patients will continue as better treatment options become available, in addition to an increase in participation in screening programs by women. In addition to early detection and optimal treatment, advances in detection methods that improve accuracy and sensitivity will also likely improve outcomes in terms of breast cancer mortality.
Kaplan, HG, Malmgren, JA, Atwood, MK, Calip, GS. “Effect of Treatment and Mammography Detection on Breast Cancer Survival Over Time: 1990-2007” Cancer. 2015 Aug 1;121(15):2553-61. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29371
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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD