Mammograms a big factor in the fight against breast cancer

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A new study has come down solidly on the side of routine screening mammograms as a preventative measure in the fight against cancer.

The researchers say that mammograms contribute just as much as hormone therapy and chemotherapy in slowing the rate of death from breast cancer.

The study, which is based on seven statistical analyses by 43 researchers, found that screening as practiced in the United States reduced the rate of death from breast cancer by 7 percent to 23 percent, depending on the analysis.

Some researchers have previously questioned the value of routine screening, but in the United States and other countries, women are encouraged to have regular mammograms beginning in their 40s for early detection of the disease.

According to the study led by Donald Berry of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, chemotherapy and hormone therapy such as tamoxifen, reduced the death rate by 12 percent to 21 percent, while a combination of screening and other therapy reduced the death rate by an estimated 25 percent to 38 percent.

Berry says all seven groups concluded that the decline in the rate of death from breast cancer is a combination of screening and therapy, and not restricted to one or the other.

As he states screening would have no benefit if not followed by treatment, including surgery.

The treatment, he says, has the potential to be more effective if cancer is detected at earlier stages by screening.

The death rate from breast cancer has decreased by 24 percent from 1990 to 2000.

The American Cancer Society estimates that this year alone, 215,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer and the disease will kill more than 40,000.

The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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