Study questions mammogram safety

December 1, 2009 2:52:25 PM PST
A new study is questioning the safety of mammograms for young women who are already at high risk for the disease. Dutch researchers pooled data from six other studies involving women with genetic mutations or a family history. They found that those who had mammograms or chest x-rays were more likely to have breast cancer.

Also, the high-risk women exposed to radiation before age 20 or who had at least five x-rays were 2 1/2 times more likely to develop breast cancer. They say high-risk women under the age of 30 may want to consider switching to an alternative screening method.

"High-risk women should weigh benefits and risks together with their doctors and come together to get a good screening strategy, and keeping in mind that there is possibility of using alternative techniques at younger ages like MRI," said Marijke Jansen-van der Weide, PhD, Univ. Medical Ctr. Groningen.

This study was presented in Chicago at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Again, the finding only applies to high-risk women and not those of average risk for breast cancer. But this study could add fuel to the debate about the value of yearly mammograms.