HEALTH: Breast cancer screening policy is challenged

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The Independent Online
Women in their forties should not undergo routine X-ray screening for breast cancer, according to leading American doctors, who have produced a controversial consensus document on mammography. The doctors, from the US National Institutes of Health, say there is no good evidence that women between the ages of 40 and 49 benefit from routine mammograms, particularly given the risks of exposure of healthy breast tissue to radiation.

However, the British Medical Journal reports tomorrow that the American Cancer Society is standing by its 1983 recommendation that women with no symptoms should have a mammogram every one or two years.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme calls women aged between 50 and 64 for screening every three years. Women over 65 are entitled to screening but must make their own appointments. The benefits of screening women aged 40 to 50 are currently being evaluated in a clinical trial. Liz Hunt