Sunday, 19 February 2012

Are Mammograms Good for You?

I notice they’re running ads on tv here in New Zealand at the moment not only reminding women to get regular mammograms, but encouraging men to ensure the women in their lives get regular mammograms. I haven’t had a mammogram in several years, after asking to have my name removed from the national breast screening register. I’m just not convinced that blasting my breasts with toxic radiation every couple of years is a wise or healthy thing to do. I’m not alone.

I subscribe to several not-pharmaceutically-affiliated natural health email newsletters, and have had two cross my desk (actually my computer screen) this week with articles about mammograms. On Feb 14, Dr Mercola (of posted an article titled The Major Cause of Breast Cancer Almost Everyone Ignores. The title is a bit misleading because most of the article is about concern and corruption within the FDA over approval of radiographic screening devices that may put patients at risk of radiation overexposure and/or misdiagnosis.

However, the latter part of Dr Mercola’s article outlines several studies and books about the effects of mammography on women’s health, with some quotes that offer significant food for thought. For example:

“For every 2000 women invited for screening over the course of 10 years, just ONE woman will have her life prolonged. Meanwhile, 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed with cancer had it not been for the mammography screening will be misdiagnosed as having breast cancer and will be treated unnecessarily. Additionally, more than 200 women will experience significant psychological distress...due to false positives.”  (Mercola, based on Cochrane Summaries, April 2011) Hmmm...

And for women who are pre-menopausal:

“The premenopausal breast is highly sensitive to radiation, each rad exposure increasing the breast cancer risk by about 1%, with a cumulative 10% increase for each breast with a decade’s [annual] screenings.” (Dr. Samual Epstein, 1990’s) Although modern equipment means a single exposure may be only ¼ of a rad, the practice of taking up to four pictures of each breast can mean the total exposure for each screening exceeds 1 rad. (

The US and Canadian Preventative task forces, who have studied the evidence, now recommend women not undertake routine mammograms before the age of 50, and thereafter no more often than every two years. However, most cancer organisations continue to recommend routine screenings for the over-40’s and anyone else who might be ‘at risk’.

Meanwhile, over at, this week’s email included a link to Dawn Prate’s 2005 article “MammogramsCause Breast Cancer”. She shares:

“Since 1940, the incidence of breast cancer has risen by one to two percent every year.” Think about that. Although some researchers credit better detection, others believe radiation exposure from the mammogram itself is responsible.

“Dr John W. Gofman, an authority on the health effects of ionizing radiation, estimates that 75% of breast cancer could be prevented by avoiding or minimizing exposure to ionizing radiation. These include mammography, x-rays, and other medical and dental sources.”

“Since mammographic screening was introduced, the incidence of a form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) has increased by 328%.”  And for those carrying one particular gene (oncogene AC) that is extremely susceptible to even very small doses of radiation, the risk of screening-caused breast cancer is huge.

Prates’s article ended with a long string of quotes from various sources which are insightful and sobering.

For me, I’ll continue doing regular self exams, but in spite of tv ads and Cancer Society recommendations, I have absolutely no intention of putting my healthy breast tissue into the squeeze machine for regular doses of unnecessary radiation. 

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