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March 7, 1977

The Risks of Mammograms

Author Affiliations

Barbara A. Reichling Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation La Jolla, Calif
From the Radiation Biology and Biophysics Section, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

JAMA. 1977;237(10):965-966. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270370037017

RECENT publicity about potential dangers of mammography has generated an emotional reaction in both lay and professional circles. Several different issues have become intermingled, and as a consequence, women are making medically unwise decisions—often with the support of medical personnel.

It is crucial to differentiate between the two major reasons for doing a mammogram: diagnosis and screening. There is little controversy among informed physicians over using mammography in evaluating possible breast cancer in a patient. The only dispute concerns mammography for asymptomatic women less than 50 years old who are not considered high risks for breast cancer. (High risk factors include previous breast cancer, family history of breast cancer, and no pregnancy before 30 years of age.)

In all other situations, it is generally agreed that the benefits of mammography outweigh the risks. Failure to recognize this distinction has led many women to refuse mammography when it is clearly indicated.