Health: Mammograms pose suicide risk

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A positive result from a mammogram - an X-ray to screen women for breast cancer - might on two occasions have resulted in suicide, says a letter in today's British Medical Journal.

Two Birmingham Health Authority doctors examined local coroners' records between 1992-95. They found that two women had committed suicide between receiving notification of recall after mammography and reattending. Neither women had attempted suicide previously, but both had had a child who had died of (non-breast) cancer.

The first woman, who was awaiting follow-up treatment after a mastectomy, wrote her suicide note on her recall letter and gave no other reason. The second woman had a history of depression and alcohol problems and had an appointment for investigation of a suspected lump. She left a suicide note mentioning her fear of admission to hospital.