Ethics in Medicine

Benefits of Mammograms after 50 less than previously thought

Kristen Sparrow • September 23, 2010

I will simply link to the local news story that covered the article published in the New England Journal of Medicine concerning the benefits of mammograms in women over the age of 50 years of age. The data on this topic is difficult to wade through, so I’m leaving the article as is. There is suspicion on both sides of the mammogram controversy. Many women feel that mammograms are being targeted and denigrated so that the insurance companies won’t have to pay for them. On the other side, there are people who feel that there are definite harms in interfacing too much with the medical system and welcome the scrutiny these and other screening procedures (PSA for example) are getting.

New research suggests mammograms may not be as helpful for women over fifty as many experts have said.

According to a large study conducted in Norway, mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by 10 percent.

Only a third of that reduction is due to the screening itself. The rest is because of better treatment and greater awareness of the disease.

According to these findings, 2,500 women would have to be regularly screened over a 10-year period to save one life…”