The Federal government this past week officially recommended
that beginning at age 40 women undergo an annual breast
screening procedure known as a mammogram. Reversing its
previous position, the National Cancer Institute joined with
other large cancer groups saying that the screening of younger
women can reduce the death rate from breast cancer.
In 1997, more than 180,000 women will be diagnosed with breast
cancer, and some 44,000 will die of it.
The National Cancer Institute’s recommendations were the
latest in a tumultuous four-year debate over the value of
mammograms for women in this age group. And many
women’s health groups still insist that there is no hard
evidence that mammograms help younger women and, in fact,
they may be harmful.
MARYANNE NAPOLI, the associate director of the
New York-based Center for Medical Consumers. She
participated in a National Institutes of Health expert panel
earlier this year that said there was no convincing evidence
that mammograms benefit women in their 40s.
DR. ROBERT SMITH, an epidemiologist with the
American Cancer Society, which has advocated since 1983 that
women in their 40s undergo annual mammograms.