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BACKGROUND: Earlier studies of breast cancer, screening mammography, and mortality reduction may have inflated lifetime and long-term risk estimates for invasive breast cancer due to limitations in their data collection methods and interpretation.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the percentage of asymptomatic peri/postmenopausal women who will be diagnosed with a first invasive breast cancer over their next 25 years of life.

METHODS: A systematic review identified peer-reviewed published studies that: 1) enrolled no study participants with a history of invasive breast cancer; 2) specified the number of women enrolled; 3) reported the number of women diagnosed with a first invasive breast cancer; 4) did not overcount [count a woman multiple times]; and, 5) defined the length of follow-up. Data sources included PubMed, Cochrane Library, and an annotated library of 4,409 full-text menopause-related papers collected and reviewed by the first author from 1974 through 2008. Linear regression predicted incidence of first invasive breast cancer, based on follow-up duration in all studies that met the our inclusion criteria, and in a subset of these studies that included only women who were 1) at least 50 years old and 2) either at least 50 or less than 50 but surgically menopausal at enrollment.

RESULTS: Nineteen studies met the inclusion criteria. They included a total of 2,305,427 peri/postmenopasual women. The mean cumulative incidence rate of first invasive breast cancer increased by 0.20% for each year of age (95% CI: 0.17, 0.23; p < 0.01; R2 = 0.90). Over 25 years of follow-up, an estimated 94.55% of women will remain breast cancer-free (95% CI: 93.97, 95.13). In the 12 studies (n = 1,711,178) that enrolled only postmenopausal women, an estimated 0.23% of women will be diagnosed with a first invasive breast cancer each year (95% CI: 0.18, 0.28; p < 0.01, R2 = 0.88).

CONCLUSION: The vast majority (99.75%) of screened asymptomatic peri/postmenopasual women will not be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year. Approximately 95% will not be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during 25 years of follow-up. Women who receive clinical examinations, but do not have mammograms, will have higher cancer-free rates because innocuous positives (comprising 30-50% of mammography diagnoses) will remain undetected. Informed consent to asymptomatic women should include these results and consideration of the benefits of avoiding mammograms.

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PLoS One





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This article was published in PLoS One, June 25, 2015.

The published version is available at

Copyright © Cutler et al. and distributed under a CC-BY license.