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New Mammography Findings

Study advises earlier mammograms to save lives.

A new study suggests that expanded screening in younger women would greatly reduce the death rate for breast cancer.

The study, which involved 7,301 patients, found that 71 percent of confirmed breast cancer deaths occurred in the 20 percent of participants who did not receive regular mammograms. The majority of those who died from breast cancer never had a mammogram before diagnosis. Researchers say if treatment were the primary survival factor, deaths would not have been so prevalent among the non-screened group.

Half of the breast cancer deaths occurred in women under 50, while only 13 percent were in women ages 70 or older. For women who died of breast cancer, the median age at diagnosis was 49; for those dying of any other cause, the median age at diagnosis was 72. Scientists say this suggests that women under 50 are a primary group in which greater screening would provide the greatest benefit.

Harvard Medical School Professor of Surgery (emeritus) Blake Cady, MD, and his colleagues followed cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed between 1990 and 1999 at Partners HealthCare hospitals through 2007, analyzing demographics, mammography use, surgical and pathology reports and recurrence and death dates to discover correlations.

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