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Mammograms not as effective at detecting cancer as previously thought, says study

New Harvard study says mammograms work best as part of a wider health strategy, and a Canadian study finds link between breast cancer and HRT.

A consultant examines a mammogram for signs of breast cancer.
A consultant examines a mammogram for signs of breast cancer.
Image: Rui Vieira/PA Wire/Press Association Images

NEW RESEARCH FROM HARVARD University says that mammograms are not as good at detecting breast cancer as people might think.

The study, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Cancer Registry of Norway, concluded that mammograms are responsible for just a third of the drop in breast cancer deaths since the 80s.

The Boston Globe reports that the researchers say that mammograms do have an impact, but are only one part of the cancer screening process and their impact may be overestimated by women.

The authors also say that the benefits of mammograms are reduced if they are not coordinated into an overall healthcare strategy.

The study, which is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, studied 40,075 women with breast cancer, including women who had lived in countries without a breast cancer screening programme.

The report concludes: “The availability of screening mammography was associated with a reduction in the rate of death from breast cancer, but the screening itself accounted for only about a third of the total reduction.”

Breast cancer and HRT

Today, the Telegraph reports that a Canadian study has found a connection between hormone replacement treatment and breast cancer.

The study found that as HRT treatment dropped, so did the number of breast cancer cases, and suggests that the hormone treatment helped tumours to grow more quickly.

Dr Sarah Rawklings from the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity told the Telegraph that the study supports existing research on the link between HRT and breast cancer and it is important to continue to study the connection.

“Women who are concerned about this should contact their GP before starting, stopping or changing their HRT,” Rawklings said.

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