• Glenn Wilson

    Various health organizations offer clashing mammogram recommendations that range from annual mammograms starting at age 40 to eliminating routine mammograms altogether. Who should you trust?

    Dr. Greger: “Various [health] organizations offer clashing [mammogram] recommendations” that range from annual “mammograms start[ing] at age 40,” to eliminating routine mammograms “altogether.” It’s hard to know who to trust, given all the various conflicts of interest, but a good place to start is the USPSTF, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, whose 2009 recommendations “ignited a firestorm” of controversy by recommending pushing back routine mammograms from age 40 to 50, and doing them every other year, instead of annually. This evoked “a swift and decidedly passionate condemnation from members of the public, the media, and [medicine].”

    Most people have never even heard of the USPSTF, but it’s “considered the leading independent panel of [nongovernmental] experts” when it comes to prevention—considered the “gold standard for preventative care,” since they have a reputation of sticking more with the science, for example, “recommending against” teaching women to do breast self-exams. Why? Because it doesn’t appear to work. It was put to the test—hundreds of thousands of women randomized to do self-exams or not, and no benefit—in fact, only harms: doubling the number of women who had to get biopsies taken, but not actually shown to decrease the risk of getting breast cancer, or dying from breast cancer. It didn’t catch tumors in earlier stages.

    Now, to be clear, they didn’t come out against breast self-examination, but “against teaching” women how to do them; reminding them to do them only appears to cause harm with no benefit. If you do discover an abnormality, then definitely tell your doctor, but telling women to get into the practice of looking seems to do more harm than good. Yet, most doctors continue to teach women to perform self-exams. But wait; it’s not been shown to help, and in fact, has been shown to harm, so why do doctors keep doing it? Because that’s just what we’ve been telling women forever. So, there’s this medical inertia that may trump women’s health—even without a multibillion-dollar industry pushing for the practice to continue. Even without Big Business tipping the scales.

    Continue at NutritionFacts: Should Women Get Mammograms Starting at Age 40?

    Maybe you prefer to read the transcript instead of watching this video? To see the full transcript or links to cited sources go to the link above, then scroll below the video and click on View Transcript or Sources Cited. This is part 3 of a 14 part series. Other videos in this series are listed in the Doctor's Note below the video.

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