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Younger breast tests?

8th December 2006

24082006_chemo1.jpgA study into extending breast cancer screening to women under 50 has failed to provide clear evidence to justify reducing the threshold.

The government-backed 10-year study looked at whether women aged 40 to 50 should routinely be offered mammograms. Currently women aged 50 to 70 are invited for screening every three years.

It found standard screening every three years from age 40 could save four lives for every 10,000 women screened. But researchers warned there were negative implications of extending the screening programme – such as radiation exposure which can increase the risk of breast cancer.

It may also lead to anxiety among many women recalled for further testing who do not have cancer, as well as the financial implications of increasing the screening programme.

The research, involving 160,000 women, also found yearly screening made no impact on breast cancer deaths in the 40 to 50 age group.

The findings, from the Institute of Cancer Research team and funded by Cancer Research UK, is published in the Lancet.

The NHS Cancer Screening Programmes advisory committee on breast cancer screening will now consider the findings in more detail.

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