Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mammograms Not Effective In Lowering Breast Cancer Mortality

Are screening mammograms effective in reducing deaths from breast cancer? The mainstream media and the medical-industrial complex would have you believe that mammograms are the best thing you can do to diagnose breast cancer at an early stage. The theory is that an early diagnosis leads to a better treatment outcome.

In order to answer the above question, researchers compared the trends in breast cancer mortality within three pairs of neighboring European countries in relation to mammogram screening. The participants were grouped into three pairs; Northern Ireland (U.K.) v. Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands v. Belgium and Flanders, and Sweden v. Norway. Each paired group had one country that was using mammography screening since 1990 while the other country did not adopt screening recommendations until years later. The World Health Organization mortality database along with data sources on mammography screening and cancer treatment were used for analysis.

From 1989-2006, the authors found breast cancer mortality similarly declined in all the countries. It did not matter which country was screening and which country was not screening via mammography. For example, in Northern Ireland (U.K.) over 70% of women aged 50-69 were screened yearly with mammography as compared to less than 30% of similarly aged women in the Republic of Ireland. Comparing the years 1998 through 2005, this study found the overall decline in breast cancer mortality between the two countries was virtually the same; a decline of 30% in Northern Ireland and 27% in the Republic of Ireland. Similar results were found in the other paired countries; mammography was not shown to decrease the mortality rate from breast cancer.

In this study the authors conclude, “…that {mammogram} screening did not play a direct part in the reductions in breast cancer mortality.” I have written about the failure of mammograms in my monthly newsletter, Dr. Brownstein’s Natural Way to Health (information about this newsletter can be found on my website). Mammography does not prevent breast cancer; it is used as a diagnostic tool only. It makes no sense to radiate cancer-prone areas of the body on a yearly basis. In fact, 10 years of mammogram radiation provides a similar amount of radiation that women received who were one mile from ground zero in Hiroshima. Even though mammograms have been around for over 20 years, there is no research that shows conclusively that mammograms improve breast cancer mortality.

It is unclear why breast cancer mortality rates have been falling. It may be due to better treatment or it may be due to differences in diagnosis. Certain non-aggressive breast cancers (i.e., DCIS—ductal carcinoma in situ) were only recently diagnosed as breast cancer in the mid 1990’s. Before then, women who had DCIS were not classified as having breast cancer. A woman diagnosed with this type of cancer would be expected to live a longer time versus a woman with a more aggressive cancer. Adding the commonly diagnosed DCIS to breast cancer statistics is bound to improve mortality rates.

What can you do to prevent breast cancer? The number one thing you can do is to eat a healthy diet free of synthetic hormones. That means eating animal products that have not been fed synthetic hormones. Furthermore, ensure that you have adequate iodine levels as low iodine levels have been implicated in animal and human models as a possible cause for developing breast cancer. More information about iodine and breast cancer can be found in my book, Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It.

Instead of mammograms, perhaps consider thermography. A thermascan measures the heat off the breasts. Hot areas can be associated with increased blood vessels and cancer. Although thermascans do not prevent breast cancer, they do no expose sensitive areas of the body to dangerous ionizing radiation. More information about thermography can be found at:

Finally, in these tough financial times, our health care dollars could be better spent on true preventive measures such as educating people why it is so important to eat a healthy diet. We spend too much money on procedures and drugs that do not prolong our lives or improve our quality of living. Until there is data to the contrary, mammograms are one screening procedure we could do without.


  • At August 6, 2011 at 6:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Please state your sources and the studies that support this. I happen to be a mammographer and a day does not go by when I don't see an early breast cancer found from a mammogram. I think these studies are hogwash. A thermagram is not as accurate as a mammogram and is not a diagnostic tool. If a thermagram shows an area of suspicion, guess what? The patient gets a mammogram. Digital mammograms are only 80% accurate, but there is nothing that is 100%. A womans best chance of finding an early breast cancer is by getting a doctor to do a yearly breast exam, the patient to check her own breasts monthly, and getting a yearly mammogram. Just ask the woman that are living today because their breast cancer was found early from a mammogram.

  • At August 7, 2011 at 8:39 AM , Anonymous Dr. Brownstein said...

    The source for the article is: BMJ. 2011;343:d4411.
    There is no question that mammograms detect breast cancer at an early stage. However, if early detection does not change the outcome of the illness, then should we be spending a lot of health care dollars on equipment/procedures which enhance early detection? Furthermore, if there is harm (e.g., ionizing radiation) with these procedures, then I feel patients should be fully informed of all of the data in order to make an appopriate decision whether to undergo screening.
    80 years of research has shown early detection has not markedly improved survival from breast cancer. Clearly what we are doing is not giving us the 'bang for the buck'.
    Again, keep in mind; mammograms do not prevent breast cancer. Mammograms are diagnostic. We need to spend more health care dollars (or at least some health care dollars)researching safe and effective ways to prevent breast cancer.
    David Brownstein, M.D.

  • At September 25, 2011 at 5:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Especially disturbing is that mammography screening generates large numbers of procedures, biopsies and surgeries, with little impact on the numbers of advanced breast cancers. This point was raised by Laura Esserman in her 2009 JAMA article. New studies by Karsten Juhl Jørgensen, M.D. and Philippe Autier in the BMJ are very supportive of Dr Esserman's conclusions.

    The basic problem is the large numbers indolent, non-aggressive lesions called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in situ) detected by screening mammography as small calcifications. DCIS is quite common in the population. A 1987 Danish study by Nielsen found DCIS in 20% of women randomly sampled at autopsy. Although DCIS is treated aggressively as an invasive cancer, it is really very indolent. Yet, DCIS has a 98% -10 year survival, and a NIH consensus conference recommends deleting the terminology "cancer" from its pathology description.

    For more:

    jeffrey dach md


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