Posted: July 7, 2015

Mammography has been the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer for decades.  An article of faith states that mammography saves lives.  Now in a ten-year study, just published in JAMA Internal Medicine (click here for a link to the abstract; email Dr. Stark for the full article — use the form at the right of this page)  Welch and colleagues have completed a huge study that debunks this entire notion.  They looked at mammography frequency across the US by county and compared it to breast cancer incidence and mortality.   The power of the study is that 16 million women were surveilled and 53,000 cases of breast cancer were uncovered.  Those women were followed for many years.  What they found was that the incidence of breast cancer was highest in those counties with the highest mammography frequency, but that breast cancer mortality was unchanged.  Dr. Stark weighs in: “For years I have been skeptical of the methodology of this group from Dartmouth.  They have been nay saying the value of cancer screening and using what I thought were trumped up numbers and faulty logic.  This study on the other hand is a blockbuster and makes one wonder if we are seriously wasting our time with mammography.  I await comments by the gray beards of radiology and breast cancer research, and I need to take a fresh look at their earlier papers.”