New Study: 1/3 of Tumors Found in Mammograms are Harmless

by Lisa Garber

Researchers of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claim that the push for breast cancer exams in the past 30 years has caused 1.3 million American women to be overdiagnosed. Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine argues that the decrease in breast cancer mortality rates is owed more to improved treatment than screenings, which detect even small, possibly benign and temporary abnormalities that resolve themselves.

Many breast imaging specialists, like Dr. Danial B. Kopans of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boson, railed against the findings, calling it “malicious nonsense” designed to deny women access to screening to reduce healthcare costs.

Early Screenings and False Positives

While the study authors agree that screening has detected early-stage cancers, it must also by this reasoning reduce the incidence of late-stage cancers (because the tumors would have been removed sooner). But they haven’t, the authors say.

After analyzing data between 1976 and 2008 from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they found that early-stage cancers doubled (per 100,000 women) from 112 to 234, but late-stage cancers fell by only 8 cases, from 102 to 94.

“We hear the word ‘cancer,’” says Welch, “and we all assume the definition that’s in my medical dictionary—it’s a tumor that, left untreated, will inexorably grow and cause death. But now, as we look for really early forms of the disease, we realized the pathologic definition of cancer includes abnormalities that may come and go.” (Welch clarified that although he is not telling women to resist screenings, they should be conscious of the technology’s limitations.)

Stamatia Destounis, a Rochester breast imager, was dubious on the matter. “There is no way for us to know which early-stage breast cancer would not progress and which one would…. How would we tell a patient, ‘Chances are this is early and it’s probably not going to progress for a long time, if ever’?”

Dangerously High Screening Rates

This isn’t the first time breast imaging has come under attack; in 2009, the US Preventative Services Task Force concluded that current levels of testing put women under unnecessary financial and emotional duress. They also noted that false positives and unhealthy exposure to radiation were a growing concern. Several Harvard Medical School academics also echo Welch’s opinion that screening rates are unnecessarily high, and even mainstream health officials like Danish scientist Peter Gotzshe admit that screening isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

It can also be argued that the very organizations advocating aggressive screenings—like Susan G. Komen—are engaged in fraud for using misleading statistics to promote screening, offering free screenings that may or may not raise the risk of future development of cancer, and by skirting scientifically relevant issues to breast cancer, like its link to BPA.

Unfortunately women are driven by massive amounts of fear of breast cancer, so much so that some individuals are actually cutting off their breasts in order to be risk-free.

Related: Why Are Health Officials Still Pushing Ineffective Breast Cancer Screenings?

TSA naked body scanners could prove extra harmful to women with BRCA gene

Natural News

Women who possess the BRCA gene, the mutations of which are linked to so-called hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, may be particularly susceptible to the deleterious effects of ionizing radiation, suggests a fresh analysis of earlier research on the subject. According to the fresh data, women with BRCA who are exposed to diagnostic scans that emit ionizing radiation — this includes naked body scanners at the airport — have a significantly heightened risk of developing cancer.

Dr. Flora E. van Leeuwen, Ph.D., from the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NCI) in Amsterdam and her colleagues evaluated a series of data on cancer rates with respect to diagnostic scans like mammograms that blast women’s chests with ionizing radiation, and found that any diagnostic use of radiation before age 30 increases breast cancer risk by 90 percent among carriers of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

Published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the research also revealed that any history of mammography prior to age 30 increases cancer risk by about 43 percent. And if all women who are BRCA carriers underwent even just one mammogram before age 30, the overall number who end up developing breast cancer by age 40 would jump from nine to 14 out of every 100.

“The results support the use of non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques (such as MRI) for surveillance in young women with BRCA1/2 mutations,” wrote the authors in their conclusion, affirming what earlier studies have found linking mammograms, CT scans, and other radiation-based diagnostic scans to cancer.

TSA naked body scanners are a serious cancer threat to BRCA gene carriers

What the study also suggests is that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s naked body scanners are also a serious cancer threat, particularly among young women with the BRCA gene. The TSA’s backscatter version of its naked body scanner blasts a narrow beam of high-intensity radiation at travelers’ bodies, which is “absorbed almost entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin,” according to

Since young children are routinely sent through such machines as part of the TSA’s digital strip search procedure, this is highly alarming, particularly for young women with the BRCA gene. Since no credible safety testing has ever been conducted on the TSA’s backscatter machines, including any legitimate measure of how much radiation is actually absorbed by travelers that pass through them, there is no way to know the cumulative effects of exposure.

We do know; however, that the type of radiation emitted by backscatter naked body scanners is the same type emitted during mammography and CT scans, and potentially even in the same or higher doses. For this reason, naked body scanners are very likely just as risky for women with the BRCA gene as are diagnostic scans, which means they should be avoided at all costs.