Mammograms cause breast cancer (and other cancer facts you probably
Aug 15, 2005 PT by
Breast cancer is the leading
cause of death among American women between the ages of 44 and 55. Dr. Gofinan,
in his book, Preventing Breast Cancer, cites this startling statistic
along with an in-depth look at mammographic screening, an early-detection
practice that agencies like the American
Cancer Society recommend to women of all age groups. According to most
health experts, catching a tumor in its early stages increases a woman's chances
of survival by at least 17 percent.
The most common method for early
detection is mammography. A mammogram is an X-ray picture of your breast
that can reveal tumor growths otherwise undetectable in a physical exam. Like
all x-rays, mammograms use doses of ionizing radiation to create this image.
Radiologists then analyze the image for any abnormal growths. Despite continuous
improvements and innovations, mammography has garnered a sizable opposition in
the medical community because of an error rate that is still high and the amount
of harmful radiation used in the procedure.
Effectiveness of Mammography
Is mammography an effective tool for detecting tumors? Some critics say no. In a
Swedish study of 60,000 women, 70 percent of the mammographically detected
tumors weren't tumors at all. These "false positives" aren't just
financial and emotional strains, they may also lead to many unnecessary and
invasive biopsies. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of all positive mammograms do
not, upon biopsy, show any
presence of cancer.
At the same time, mammograms also have a high rate of missed tumors, or
"false negatives." Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, in his book, The
Politics Of Cancer, claims that in women ages 40 to 49, one in four
instances of cancer is missed at each mammography. The National
Cancer Institute (NCI) puts the false negative rate even higher at 40
percent among women ages 40-49. National
Institutes of Health spokespeople also admit that mammograms miss 10 percent
of malignant tumors in women over 50. Researchers have found that breast tissue
is denser among younger women, making it difficult to detect tumors. For this
reason, false negatives are twice as likely to occur in premenopausal
Many critics of mammography cite the hazardous health effects of radiation. In
1976, the controversy over radiation and mammography reached a saturation point.
At that time mammographic technology delivered five to 10 rads
(radiation-absorbed doses) per screening, as compared to 1 rad in current
screening methods. In women between the ages of 35 and 50, each rad of exposure
increased the risk of breast cancer by one percent, according to Dr. Frank
Rauscher, then-director of the NCI.
According to Russell L. Blaylock, MD, one estimate is that annual
radiological breast exams increase the risk of breast cancer by two percent a
year. So over 10 years the risk will have increased 20 percent. In the 1960s and
70s, women, even those who received 10 screenings a year, were never told the
risk they faced from exposure. In the midst of the 1976 radiation debate, Kodak,
a major manufacturer of mammography film, took out full-page ads in scientific
journals entitled About breast cancer and X-rays:
A hopeful message from industry on a sober topic.
Despite better technology and decreased doses of radiation, scientists still
claim mammography is a substantial risk. Dr. John W. Gofman, an authority on the
health effects of ionizing radiation, estimates that 75 percent of breast cancer
could be prevented by avoiding or minimizing exposure to the ionizing radiation.
This includes 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
percent. Two hundred percent of this increase is allegedly due to mammography.
In addition to harmful radiation, mammography may also help spread existing cancer
cells due to the considerable pressure placed on the woman's breast during
the procedure. According to some health practitioners, this compression could
cause existing cancer cells to metastasize from the breast tissue.
Cancer research has also found a gene, called oncogene AC, that is extremely
sensitive to even small doses of radiation. A significant percentage of women in
the United States have this
gene, which could increase their risk of mammography-induced cancer. They
estimate that 10,000 A-T carriers will die of breast cancer this year due to
The risk of radiation is apparently higher among younger women. The NCI
released evidence that, among women under 35, mammography could cause 75
cases of breast cancer for every 15 it identifies. Another Canadian study
found a 52 percent increase in breast cancer mortality in young women given
annual mammograms. Dr. Samuel
Epstein also claims that pregnant
women exposed to radiation could endanger their fetus. He advises against
mammography during pregnancy
because "the future risks of leukemia
to your unborn child, not to mention birth defects, are just not worth it."
Similarly, studies reveal that children exposed to radiation are more likely to
develop breast cancer as adults.
Navigating the Statistics
While the number of deaths caused by breast cancer has decreased, the incidence
of breast cancer is still rising. Since 1940, the incidence of breast cancer has
risen by one to two percent every year. Between 1973 and 1991, the incidence of
breast cancer in females over 65 rose nearly 40 percent in the United States.
Some researchers attribute this increase to better detection technologies; i.e.,
as the number of women screened for breast cancer rises, so does the number of
reported cases. Other analysts say the correlation between mammographic
screening and increases in breast cancer is much more ominous, suggesting
radiation exposure is responsible for the growing number of cases. While the
matter is still being debated, Professor Sandra Steingraber offers ways to
navigate these statistics. According to Steingraber, the rise in breast cancer
predates the introduction of mammograms as a common diagnostic tool. In
addition, the groups of women in whom breast cancer incidence is ascending most
swiftly – blacks and the elderly – are also least likely to get regular
The majority of health experts agree that the risk of breast cancer for women
under 35 is not high enough to warrant the risk of radiation exposure.
Similarly, the risk of breast cancer to women over 55 justifies the risk of
mammograms. The statistics about mammography and women between the ages of 40
and 55 are the most contentious. A 1992 Canadian National Breast Cancer Study
showed that mammography had no positive effect on mortality for women between
the ages of 40 and 50. In fact, the study seemed to suggest that women in that
age group are more likely to die of breast cancer when screened regularly.
Burton Goldberg, in his book, Alternative Medicine, recommends that
women under 50 avoid screening mammograms, although the American Cancer Society
encourages mammograms every two years for women ages 40 to 49. Trying to settle
this debate, a 1997 consensus panel appointed by the NIH ruled that there was no
evidence that mammograms for this age group save lives; they may even do more
harm than good. The panel advises women to weigh the risks with their doctors
and decide for themselves.
New Screening Technologies
While screening is an important step in fighting breast cancer, many researchers
are looking for alternatives to mammography. Burton Goldberg totes the safety
and accuracy of new thermography technologies. Able to detect cancers at a
minute physical stage of development, thermography does not use x-rays, nor is
there any compression of the breast. Also important, new thermography
technologies do not lose effectiveness with dense breast tissue, decreasing the
chances of false-negative results.
Some doctors are now offering digital mammograms. Digital mammography is a
mammography system in which x-ray film is replaced by solid-state detectors that
convert x-rays into electric signals. Though radiation is still used, digital
mammography requires a much smaller dose. The electrical signals are used to
produce images that can be electronically manipulated; a physician can zoom in,
magnify and optimize different parts of breast tissue without having to take an
The experts speak on mammograms and breast cancer:
Regular mammography of younger women increases their cancer risks. Analysis of
controlled trials over the last decade has shown consistent increases in breast
cancer mortality within a few years of commencing screening. This confirms
evidence of the high sensitivity of the premenopausal breast, and on cumulative
carcinogenic effects of radiation.
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 539
In his book, "Preventing Breast Cancer," Dr. Gofinan
says that breast cancer is the leading cause of death among American women
between the ages of forty-four and fifty-five. Because breast tissue is highly
radiation-sensitive, mammograms can cause cancer. The danger can be heightened
by a woman's genetic makeup, preexisting benign
breast disease, artificial menopause, obesity,
and hormonal imbalance.
By Medicine by Gary Null PhD, page 23
"The risk of radiation-induced breast cancer has long been a concern to
mammographers and has driven the efforts to minimize radiation dose per
examination," the panel explained. "Radiation can cause breast cancer
in women, and the risk is proportional to dose. The younger the woman at the
time of exposure, the greater her lifetime risk for breast cancer.
Under The Influence Modern Medicine by Terry A Rondberg DC, page 122
Furthermore, there is clear evidence that the breast, particularly in
premenopausal women, is highly sensitive to radiation, with estimates of
increased risk of breast cancer of up to 1% for every rad (radiation absorbed
dose) unit of X-ray exposure. This projects up to a 20% increased cancer risk
for a woman who, in the 1970s, received 10 annual mammograms of an average two
rads each. In spite of this, up to 40% of women over 40 have had mammograms
since the mid-1960s, some annually and some with exposures of 5 to 10 rads in a
single screening from older, high-dose equipment.
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 537
No less questionable—or controversial—has been the use of X rays to
detect breast cancer: mammography. The American Cancer Society initially
promoted the procedure as a safe and simple way to detect breast tumors early
and thus allow women to undergo mastectomies before their cancers had
The Cancer Industry by Ralph W Moss, page 23
The American Cancer Society, together with the American College of
Radiologists, has insisted on pursuing largescale mammography screening programs
for breast cancer, including its use in younger women, even though the NCI and
other experts are now agreed that these are likely to cause more cancers than
could possibly be detected.
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 291
A number of "cancer societies" argued, saying the tests — which
cost between $50-200 each - - are a necessity for all women over 40, despite the
fact that radiation from yearly mammograms during ages 40-49 has been estimated
to cause one additional breast cancer death per 10,000 women.
Under The Influence Modern Medicine by Terry A Rondberg DC, page 21
Mammograms Add to Cancer Risk—mammography exposes the breast to damaging
ionizing radiation. John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D., an authority on the health
effects of ionizing radiation, spent 30 years studying the effects of low-dose
radiation on humans. He estimates that 75% of breast cancer could be prevented
by avoiding or minimizing exposure to the ionizing radiation from mammography, X
rays, and other medical sources. Other research has shown that, since
mammographic screening was introduced in 1983, the incidence of a form of breast
cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which represents 12% of all
breast cancer cases, has increased by 328%, and 200% of this increase is due to
the use of mammography.69 In addition to exposing a woman to harmful radiation,
the mammography procedure may help spread an existing mass of cancer cells.
During a mammogram, considerable pressure must be placed on the woman's breast,
as the breast is squeezed between two flat plastic surfaces. According to some
health practitioners, this compression could cause existing cancer cells to
metastasize from the breast tissue.
In fact the benefits of annual screening to women age 40 to 50, who are now
being aggressively recruited, are at best controversial. In this age group, one
in four cancers is missed at each mammography. Over a decade of pre-menopausal
screening, as many as three in 10 women will be mistakenly diagnosed with breast
cancer. Moreover, international studies have shown that routine premenopausal
mammography is associated with increased breast cancer death rates at older
ages. Factors involved include: the high sensitivity of the premenopausal breast
to the cumulative carcinogenic effects of mammographic X-radiation; the still
higher sensitivity to radiation of women who carry the A-T gene; and the danger
that forceful and often painful compression of the breast during mammography may
rupture small blood vessels and encourage distant spread of undetected cancers.
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 540
Since a mammogram is basically an x-ray (radiation) of the breast, I do not
recommend mammograms to my patients for two reasons: 1) Few radiologists are
able to read mammogams correctly, therefore limiting their effectiveness. Even
the man who developed this technique stated on national television
that only about six radiologists in the United States could read them correctly.
2) In addition, each time the breasts are exposed to an x-ray, the risk of
breast cancer increases by 2 percent.
The Hope of Living Cancer Free by Francisco Contreras MD, page 104
Mammography itself is radiation: an X-ray picture of the breast to detect a
potential tumor. Each woman must weigh for herself the risks and benefits of
mammography. As with most carcinogens, there is a latency period or delay
between the time of irradiation and the occurrence of breast cancer. This delay
can vary up to decades for different people. Response to radiation is especially
dramatic in children. Women who received X-rays of the breast area as children
have shown increased rates of breast cancer as adults. The first increase is
reflected in women younger than thirty-five, who have early onset breast cancer.
But for this exposed group, flourishing breast cancer rates continue for another
forty years or longer.
Eat To Beat Cancer by J Robert Hatherill, page 132
The use of women as guinea pigs is familiar. There is revealing consistency
between the tamoxifen trial and the 1970s trial by the NCI and American Cancer
Society involving high-dose mammography of some 300,000 women. Not only is there
little evidence of effectiveness of mammography in premeno-pausal women, despite
NCI's assurances no warnings were given of the known high risks of breast cancer
from the excessive X-ray doses then used. There has been no investigation of the
incidence of breast cancer in these high-risk women. Of related concern is the
NCI's continuing insistence on premeno-pausal mammography, in spite of contrary
warnings by the American College of Physicians and the Canadian Breast Cancer
Task Force and in spite of persisting questions about hazards even at current
low-dose exposures. These problems are compounded by the NCI's failure to
explore safe alternatives, especially transillumination with infrared light
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 544
High Rate of False Positives—mammography's high rate of false-positive test
results wastes money and creates unnecessary emotional trauma.
A Swedish study of 60,000 women, aged 40-64, who were screened for breast cancer
revealed that of the 726 actually referred to oncologists for treatment, 70%
were found to be cancer free. According to The Lancet, of the 5% of mammograms
that suggest further testing, up to 93% are false positives. The Lancet report
further noted that because the great majority of positive screenings are false
positives, these inaccurate results lead to many unnecessary biopsies and other
invasive surgical procedures.
In fact, 70% to 80% of all positive mammograms do not, on biopsy, show any
presence of cancer.71 According to some estimates, 90% of these
"callbacks" result from unclear readings due to dense overlying breast
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 588
"Radiation-related breast cancers occur at least 10 years after
exposure," continued the panel. "Radiation from yearly mammograms
during ages 40-49 has been estimated to cause one additional breast cancer death
per 10,000 women."
Under The Influence Modern Medicine by Terry A Rondberg DC, page 122
According to the National Cancer Institute, there is a high rate of missed
tumors in women ages 40-49 which results in 40% false negative test results.
Breast tissue in younger women is denser, which makes it more difficult to
detect tumours, so tumours grow more quickly in younger women, and tumours may
develop between screenings. Because there is no reduction in mortality from
breast cancer as a direct result of early mammogram, it is recommended that
women under fifty avoid screening mammograms although the American Cancer
Society still recommends a mammogram every two years for women age 40-49. Dr.
Love states, "We know that mammography works and will be a lifesaving tool
for at least 30%."
Treating Cancer With Herbs by Michael Tierra ND, page 467
Equivocal mammogram results lead to unnecessary surgery, and the accuracy
rate of mammograms is poor. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), in
women ages 40-49, there is a high rate of "missed tumors," resulting
in 40% false-negative mammogram results. Breast tissue in younger women is
denser, which makes it more difficult to detect tumors, and tumors grow more
quickly in younger women, so cancer may develop between screenings.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 973
Even worse, spokespeople for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) admit
that mammograms miss 25 percent of malignant tumors in women in their 40s (and
10 percent in older women). In fact, one Australian study found that more than
half of the breast cancers in younger women are not detectable by mammograms.
Underground Cures by Health Sciences Institute
Whatever you may be told, refuse routine mammograms to detect early breast
cancer, especially if you are premenopausal. The X-rays may actually increase
your chances of getting cancer. If you are older, and there are strong reasons
to suspect that you may have breast cancer, the risks may be worthwhile. Very
few circumstances, if any, should persuade you to have X-rays taken if you are
pregnant. The future risks of leukaemia to your unborn child, not to mention
birth defects, are just not worth it.
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 305
Other medical research has shown that the incidence of a form of breast
cancer known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which accounts for 12% of all
breast cancer cases, increased by 328% — and 200% of this increase is due to
the use of mammography!
Under The Influence Modern Medicine by Terry A Rondberg DC, page 123
As the controversy heated up in 1976, it was revealed that the hundreds of
thousands of women enrolled in the program were never told the risk they faced
from the procedure (ibid.). Young women faced the greatest danger. In the
thirty-five- to fifty-year-old age group, each mammogram increased the subject's
chance of contracting breast cancer by 1 percent, according to Dr. Frank
Rauscher, then director of the National Cancer Institute (New York Times, August
The Cancer Industry by Ralph W Moss, page 24
Because there is no reduction in mortality from breast cancer as a direct
result of early mammograms, it is recommended that women under 50 avoid
screening mammograms, although the American Cancer Society is still recommending
a mammogram every two years for women ages 40-49. The NCI recommends that, after
age 35, women perform monthly breast self-exams. For women over 50, many doctors
still advocate mammograms. However, breast self-exams and safer, more accurate
technologies such as thermography should be strongly considered as options to
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 973
In the midst of the debate, Kodak took out full-page ads in scientific
journals entitled "About breast cancer and X-rays: A hopeful message from
industry on a sober topic" (see Science, July 2, 1976). Kodak is a major
manufacturer of mammography film.
The Cancer Industry by Ralph W Moss, page 24
The largest and most credible study ever done to evaluate the impact of
routine mammography on survival has concluded that routine mammograms do
significantly reduce deaths from breast cancer. Scientists in the United States,
Sweden, Britain, and Taiwan compared the number of deaths from breast cancer
diagnosed in the 20 years before mammogram screening became available with the
number in the 20 years after its introduction. The research was based on the
histories and treatment of 210,000 Swedish women ages 20 to 69. The researchers
found that death from breast cancer dropped 44 percent in women who had routine
mammography. Among those who refused mammograms during this time period there
was only a 16 percent reduction in death from this disease (presumably the
decrease was due to better treatment of the malignancy).
Dr Isadore Rosenfeld's Breakthrough Health By Isadore Rosenfeld MD, page
In 1993—seventeen years after the first pilot study—the biochemist Mary
Wolff and her colleagues conducted the first carefully designed, major study on
this issue. They analyzed DDE and PCB levels in the stored blood specimens of
14,290 New York City women who had attended a mammography screening clinic.
Within six months, fifty-eight of these women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Wolff matched each of these fifty-eight women to control subjects—women
without cancer but of the same age, same menstrual status, and so on—who had
also visited the clinic. The blood samples of the women with breast cancer were
then compared to their cancer-free counterparts.
Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber PhD, page 12
One reason may be that mammograms actually increase mortality. In fact
numerous studies to date have shown that among the under-50s, more women die
from breast cancer among screened groups than among those not given mammograms.
The results of the Canadian National Breast Cancer Screening Trial published in
1993, after a screen of 50,000 women between 40-49, showed that more tumors were
detected in the screened group, but not only were no lives saved but 36 percent
more women died from
The Cancer Handbook by Lynne McTaggart, page 57
One Canadian study found a 52 percent increase in breast cancer mortality in
young women given annual mammograms, a procedure whose stated purpose is to
prevent cancer. Despite evidence of the link between cancer and radiation
exposure to women from mammography, the American Cancer Society has promoted the
practice without reservation. Five radiologists have served as ACS
When Healing Becomes A Crime by Kenny Ausubel, page 233
Premenopausal women carrying the A-T gene, about 1.5 percent of women, are
more radiation sensitive and at higher cancer risk from mammography. It has been
estimated that up to 10,000 breast cancer cases each year are due to mammography
of A-T carriers.
The Politics Of Cancer by Samuel S Epstein MD, page 539
A study reported that mammography combined with physical exams found 3,500
cancers, 42 percent of which could not be detected by physical exam. However, 31
percent of the tumors were noninfiltrating cancer. Since the course of breast
cancer is long, the time difference in cancer detected through mammography may
not be a benefit in terms of survival.
Woman's Encyclopedia Of Natural Healing by Dr Gary Null, page 86
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also has called for
more mammograms among women over 50. However, constant screening still can miss
breast cancer. mammograms are at their poorest in detecting breast cancer when
the woman is under 50.
The Cancer Handbook by Lynne McTaggart, page 53
Despite its shortcomings, every woman between the ages of fifty and
sixty-nine should have one every year. I also recommend them annually for women
over seventy, even though early detection isn't as important for the
slow-growing form of breast cancer they tend to get. One mammogram should
probably be taken at age forty to establish a baseline, but how often women
should have them after that is debatable. Some authorities favor annual
screening. Others feel there's not enough evidence to support screening at all
before fifty. Still others believe that every two years is sufficient. I lean
toward having individual women and their doctors go over the pros and cons and
make their own decisions. Finally, a mammogram is appropriate at any age if a
lump has been detected.
The Longevity Code By Zorba Paster MD, page 234 For breast
cancer, thermography offers a very early warning system, often able to pinpoint
a cancer process five years before it would be detectable by mammography. Most
breast tumors have been growing slowly for up to 20 years before they are found
by typical diagnostic techniques. Thermography can detect cancers when they are
at a minute physical stage of development, when it is still relatively easy to
halt and reverse the progression of the cancer. No rays of any kind enter the
patient's body; there is no pain or compressing of the breasts as in a
mammogram. While mammography tends to lose effectiveness with dense breast
tissue, thermography is not dependent upon tissue densities.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 587
Read Dr. Epsteins
Comments on Mammography Dangers