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Row over breast cancer screening shows that scientists bring “some subjectivity into their work

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 27 October 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:956
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. London

    The difficulty of getting scientists to reach a consensus on their interpretations of trial data was illustrated last week when two reviewers for the Cochrane Breast Cancer Group published their own review of mammography screening trials after editors from the group had disagreed with some of their conclusions.

    The review claimed that there was no reliable evidence to support the value of mammo-graphy screening in reducing deaths from breast cancer and alleged an association with increased rates of breast surgery.

    Ole Olson and Peter Gøtsche from the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Righospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark, reassessed—as part of a Cochrane review—a meta-analysis of seven randomised trials of screening mammography which they had previously carried out. This confirmed their original conclusion, they said, that there was no evidence of a reduction in either total or breast cancer mortality in two of the trials that they considered to be of sufficient quality to analyse.

    They added: “We have also confirmed, with additional data, which the editors of the Cochrane Breast Cancer Group have elected to defer from publication until further editorial review has been completed, our earlier finding that screening leads to more …

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