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March 7, 1977

Mammography—A Time for Caution

JAMA. 1977;237(10):997-998. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270370069030

X-ray mammography can be utilized to detect breast cancer at an earlier stage than other methods, and earlier detection means improved survival rates. However, the radiation required for mammography will itself cause some breast cancers. Abundant evidence from studies of both humans and animals, as well as our entire understanding of radiation carcinogenesis, permits no other conclusion.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell precisely how many cancers will be caused by mammography. No data exist on the long-term effects of the type of radiation exposure involved. Thus, many observers disagree sharply about the balance between good and bad effects.1,2

Communications in The Journal deal with various aspects of mammography, breast cancer, and radiation risks. Simon3 points out the possibility that chest radiation for hirsutism or acne in young women may be added to the list of radiation exposures causing breast cancer. Black et al (p 970), found