Mammography was agreed to be the most appropriate breast screening tool

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently published their recommendations following new data on screening practices and their outcomes. According to the IARC, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cause of death for women worldwide. It is said to be the leading cause of death from cancer for women in low to middle-income countries and the second leading cause of death from cancer for women in developed countries. Standard mammography is still the most commonly used method of screening for the disease in women.

A review of all published peer-reviewed scientific literature in the field, which includes advancements in technology, clinical breast examination and self-checking techniques, concluded that mammograms are still effective in reducing breast cancer mortality in woman aged 50-69 and is beneficial for those aged 70-74. Moreover, findings from studies conducted in high-income countries indicated that women in the 50-69 age bracket who underwent mammography screening had a breast cancer mortality around 40% lower than those who did not attend screening. The IARC did note the negative impact associated with mammography including false-positive results that can cause short term distress and lead to unnecessary treatment, and the increased risk of radiation-induced breast cancer from screening for women below the age of 50.

However, the group concluded that the benefits substantially outweighed the risks and that this screening method is capable of detecting breast cancers that can cause harm or would have never have been detected if not screened.