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Older women may benefit from mammography

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Older women, that is women over 65 years of age, account for 48 per cent of all newly diagnosed invasive breast cancers and 58 per cent of breast cancer deaths. Although there have been many studies concerning the efficacy of mammography few, if any, have addressed the question "Does it benefit women over 65 years?" Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have just released the results of a study aimed at answering this question.

Their study involved almost 10,000 women aged 67 years or older who had been diagnosed with a first primary breast cancer between 1987 and 1993. The researchers found that women who had never had a mammogram were three times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced (stage II) breast cancer than were women who had regular mammograms (at least two at least 10 months apart). Women who had never had a mammogram were also three times (OR=3.38) more likely to die from breast cancer than were women who had regular mammograms. The likelihood of being diagnosed with late stage (stage II or higher) breast cancer, not surprisingly, increased with age with women over 85 who did not use mammograms having a seven times greater risk than regular mammography users. The relative risk between non-users and regular users in the 67 to 74 year age group was 2.46. The researchers noted that 38 per cent of all deaths in this group of breast cancer patients was due to breast cancer. They conclude that regular use of mammography will reduce the mortality and incidence of late stage breast cancer among women aged 67 years and older.
McCarthy, Ellen P., et al. Mammography use, breast cancer stage at diagnosis, and survival among older women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 48, October 2000, pp. 1226-33

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