Breast cancer prevention and evidence

The National Breast Cancer Coalition has come out with new evidence-based position statements regarding several popular preventative and treatment options for breast cancer. Among the findings: There is no link between abortion and breast cancer; there's no evidence that breast self-exams actually do anything useful; and the policy of routine mammograms for every woman doesn't help as much as we think it does.


  1. …and in Harvard Business Review this month, apparently the use of the colour pink in campaigns makes women less likely to donate.

    1. The thing that makes me less likely to donate is the Susan G. Komen foundation’s nasty habit of suing the crap out of any little fund raiser that uses the words “For the Cure” in their marketing.

  2. Routine mammogram just saved my sister in-law’s life.  B/c she has them annually and caught it early, she should be fine.  “the harms and public health costs of screening mammography may outweigh the modest benefits of the intervention.”  – not in my opinion. 

    1. What Josh said.  Don’t let scaremongers and greedy insurance companies try to make women get LESS diagnostic screening.  Early detection for ANY cancer is 100% key to survivability across ALL CANCER TYPES. 

  3. My mom’s first mammogram at 40 saved her life. They found calcium deposits which can hide small tumors. During the biopsy they did find a small tumor, removed it, and she had radiation treatments. Ten years later my mother found a second lump in her breast during a self-exam. Again, it saved her life, and she’s still here 17 years later. Early detection is key, so in this case I have to strenuously disagree with this post.

  4. While we’re sure that the NBCC is an incredibly great organization – its position is at odds with (to name but a few) the American Cancer Society, the Mayo Clinic, and the American College of Gynecologists. In part this is because many of the analyses described in the pdf link have been robustly criticized ( but in part because mortality may not be the absolute best measure here.  Breast cancer treatment has got much better in the past twenty years and even more advanced cancers may now be survivable. However, the data is clear that getting to cancers later means a greater need for far more invasive/disfiguring surgery ( Perhaps annual screening mammograms for women in their 40’s doesn’t save lives (but it probably does), but it certainly results in fewer mastectomies.

    1. This is the information that is most pertinent to this debate.

      Anecdotal evidence is fine for adding some emotional weight to a debate, but despite the comment above, the plural of anecdote is never fact.

      I would question the NBCCs stance on the issue however, certainly in Australia routine mammograms are encouraged.

  5. Everyone has anecdotal evidence about someone or something that defies NBCC’s position statements, and that is exactly what it is–ANECDOTAL, case by case.  Scientific evidence is the only reliable evidence, people.

  6. Breast thermography is vasty better at detecting cancers, years before a mammogram can find them, but we don’t hear about it because it costs more. And the fact that they are completely risk free means young women can get them and detect cancers that might otherwise have gone undetected for years. Worth the cost, if you can afford it.

  7. Breast Thermography is not a replacement for mammography, any more than MRI or Ultrasound are.  It is meant to be used in conjunction with mammography. 

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