How Do We Know Mammograms Save Lives
Between 1950 and the late 1980s, overall death rates from breast cancer were relatively stable, according to the American Cancer Society publication, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2001-2002.
The death rates for breast cancer then began to fall, dropping by about 1.6% each year between 1989 and 1995. Between 1995 and 1998, the drop in the rates picked up speed, declining about 3.4% each year.
Among the women screened with mammography between 1988 and 1996 *, deaths from breast cancer dropped by 63% compared to the 10 years before, when mammography wasn't readily available.
Among the women who didn't take advantage of the screening program, there was no statistically significant drop in breast cancer death rates between the two 10-year periods, even though during that time treatments were improving.
* - Published in May 2001 in Cancer (Vol. 91, No.9).
+ - Published October 27, 2005, in The New England Journal of Medicine