Do the benefits of screening mammography outweigh the harms of overdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment?

Robin J Bell and Robert C Burton
Med J Aust 2012; 196 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11476
Published online: 16 January 2012

No. Breast cancer researchers Robin Bell and Robert Burton believe that screening can result in overdiagnosis

Screening mammography undoubtedly saves lives. Since 1991, when Australia’s free national mammographic screening program (BreastScreen Australia) began, there has been a 29% reduction in breast cancer-specific mortality. However, our analysis of age-stratified data indicates that BreastScreen does not account for most of this mortality reduction.1 Furthermore, it is now recognised that the balance between the benefits and harms of screening has become increasingly unfavourable. Women should be given a balanced explanation of what BreastScreen offers them.

  • Robin J Bell1
  • Robert C Burton2

  • School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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