ASCO: Mammograms Save Lives for Women in Their 40s

Other studies find improvement in breast cancer survival, good response to aromatase inhibitors
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Women who get mammograms at ages 40 to 49 have a lower risk of dying from breast cancer than women who are not screened during their 40s, according to a Swedish study to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO) annual Breast Cancer Symposium, held from Oct. 1 to 3 in Washington, D.C., and published online Sept. 29 in Cancer.

Barbro Numan Hellquist, of Umeå University in Sweden, and colleagues studied women who were invited during 1986 to 2005 to have breast cancer screening at ages 40 to 49 years and a control group of women in the same age group who were not invited. No significant difference for mortality was seen during the prescreening period. For the study period, there were 803 breast cancer deaths in the group invited to be screened (7.3 million person-years) compared to 1,238 deaths (8.8 million person-years) in the control group. Compared to the control women, the researchers found that the women who attended screenings had a reduced mortality risk of 29 percent and the women invited to screenings had a reduced risk of 26 percent.

According to three other studies to be presented at the symposium, survival among breast cancer patients a decade after diagnosis has improved over the past 60 years, largely because of advances in early detection and more effective treatments; postmenopausal women who have strongly estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer are likely to respond to aromatase inhibitors given preoperatively, and subsequently are likely to be eligible for breast-conserving surgery; and women with triple-negative disease and a BRCA mutation have a lower likelihood of relapse and higher survival odds than those with triple-negative disease but no mutation.

"Women diagnosed with breast cancer today have a much better prognosis than they did 50 years ago," Jennifer Obel, M.D., ASCO Cancer Communications Committee member, said in a statement. "We owe these advances to early detection, greater use of improved/targeted therapies, and a deeper understanding of the molecular basis of their disease. Our approach to breast cancer continues to evolve at a rapid pace."

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