USPSTF Breast Cancer Screening Draft Recommendations Treading Water Despite Tidal Shift in Evidence

LogoThumbFor immediate release
April 21, 2015
Contact:
Angela Wall, Communications Director
(415) 243-9301, ext. 16
awall@bcaction.org

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Breast Cancer Action (BCAction), the nationally acclaimed watchdog for the breast cancer movement, today responded with disappointment to the much awaited recommendations on screening for breast cancer released yesterday by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

BCAction Executive Director Karuna Jaggar says: “These recommendations maintain the status quo at a time when evidence is mounting that widespread mammography screening for average-risk women is failing to meet our hopes of improving and extending women’s lives.”

Five years ago in 2009, the USPSTF released, at the time controversial, breast cancer screening recommendations that came to remarkably similar conclusions recommending biannual mammography screening for women ages 50-74 and stating that for women in their 40s the decision for routine screening mammography is a personal one.

“The science has grown in the last five years; however, the USPSTF in its recently released recommendations has not,” said Jaggar.  “The evidence is in and the time has come to radically re-think the tenets of the breast cancer awareness movement, because it is clear that the fundamental philosophy behind “early detection” is flawed,” says Jaggar.

In recent years, researchers have revealed that the presumed benefits of mammography screening (reducing deaths from breast cancer) have been overstated, and the harms downplayed.

Last year the New England Journal of Medicine published a strongly-worded perspective from the Swiss Medical Board concluding that mammography screening is “hard to justify.” The Swiss Medical Board established that 22% of all breast cancers found through mammography screening represented over-diagnosis, which is the identification of a cancer that is not life-threatening. This means that these women suffer the harms of treatment even though their lives are not at risk.

Also in 2014, The British Medical Journal published the largest study on mammography to date which reported that screening healthy women using mammography to find breast cancers – before they could be felt as a lump in the breast – did not lead to lower death rates for average-risk women in their 40s and 50s.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the core of the USPSTF draft recommendations for breast cancer screening fails to respond to the tidal shift in data that undeniably questions the efficacy of population-level breast cancer screening,” lamented Jaggar. “Other countries are following the data: The Swiss Medical Board recommended that Switzerland phase out existing mammography screening programs and stop introducing new ones, according to an April 16 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. Why has the USPSTF stayed the course with their recommendations for biannual screening for most middle aged women despite evidence that these recommendations produce significant harm for women?”

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Breast Cancer Action (www.bcaction.org) is a national non-profit education and advocacy organization that refuses to accept corporate funding from companies or organizations that profit from or contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.
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