Mammograms have a magical reputation. But they don’t save as many lives as you think

“Mammograms have a magical reputation. But they don’t save as many lives as you think,” by Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post.

Mammograms have an almost magical reputation among many women. At pink ribbon events, breast cancer survivors credit the screening tool as having saved their lives, and the U.S. government believes in their power so strongly that coverage for it is mandated by the Affordable Care Act for newer insurance plans.

Much of this faith in mammograms comes from a pivotal paper based on tests conducted in the 1960s and ’70s in Sweden that showed that screening could reduce breast cancer mortality by an amazing 20 percent to 25 percent. Now a new review of that study, published in the Royal Society of Medicine on Tuesday, argues that the method of statistical analysis was flawed and that the reduction in deaths is actually closer to 10 percent. The findings support a growing body of evidence in North America, Europe and Australia that show that rates of advanced breast cancer have not declined in countries where most women regularly get screened.

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