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Breast cancer screening: Overdiagnosis increases significantly with age, researchers say

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p1823 (Published 08 August 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1823
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

The risk of overdiagnosis among older women who are screened for breast cancer increases significantly with age, according to researchers from the Yale School of Medicine.1

In a retrospective cohort study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers analysed breast cancer diagnoses and death in nearly 55 000 women aged 70 and over, who were followed for up to 15 years after screening. They found that potential overdiagnosis increased from around one in three women aged 70-74 to over half in those aged 85 and over.

The findings come as the US is set to extend breast screening to cover all women aged 40 to 74. In contrast, the NHS offers breast screening every three years for women aged between 50 and 71.2

Overdiagnosis can be defined as detecting a cancer, often through screening, that would not have caused symptoms in a person’s lifetime. Overdiagnosis can be driven by several …

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