New breast cancer guidelines seen as unsafe: poll

Mon May 30, 2011 3:02am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More than eight out of 10 women say new guidelines recommending against routine breast cancer screening of women under 50 are "unsafe," according to an opinion poll.

But most of the women also seriously overestimate their risk of developing the disease, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester found.

"Indeed, they have been exposed to consistent and high profile media campaigns, endorsed by medicine and a variety of interest groups, that have indoctrinated them into the concepts that mammograms lead to early detection and early detection saves lives," Autumn Davidson and other researchers wrote in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The controversy over screening mammography flared up in late 2009, when a government-funded group of independent experts decided to change its recommendations.

Instead of advising annual mammograms in all women age 40 and above, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) said women shouldn't routinely get screened until they hit 50, and those between 50 and 74 should only have mammograms every two years.

What the group didn't say, though, is that no women under 50 should be screened -- it left that up to the individual woman and her doctor to decide, based on her personal risk factors and preferences.

But the USPSTF recommendations flew in the face of many years of aggressive PR campaigns, and met staunch resistance from advocacy groups, news organizations and medical groups.

To find out what women themselves thought, Davidson and her colleagues gave questionnaires to 247 women in their 40s who came to the hospital for an annual well-woman exam.

More than eight out of 10 of the women said they wanted yearly mammograms, felt the new guidelines were unsafe, and wouldn't delay screening until they were 50.   Continued...