NIH Press Release
National Cancer Institute

Friday, Dec. 6, 1996

Nancy Nelson
NCI Press Office
(301) 496-6641

National Institutes of Health to Hold Consensus Conference
on Breast Cancer Screening

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is planning a consensus development conference to review updated results from studies on the role of breast cancer screening in women ages 40 to 49. The conference will be held in Natcher Conference Center at the NIH in Bethesda, Md., from Jan. 21-23, 1997.

Years of research have confirmed that women ages 50 to 69 who are screened with mammography on a regular basis have a reduced chance of dying from breast cancer. In 1993 when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) held an International Workshop on Screening for Breast Cancer, the evidence was less clear for women ages 40-49. The upcoming conference will examine data generated since the 1993 conference.

NCI Director Richard Klausner, M.D., said, "There is no universal agreement on screening younger women, including who should be screened and at what interval. Several, but not all, national and professional organizations in the United States recommend that all women age 40 and older should be screened at regular intervals. By holding this conference, we are convening experts to once again look at the updated evidence."

The NIH Office of Medical Applications of Research which administers the Consensus Development Conference Program, and NCI invited researchers who have conducted randomized breast cancer screening trials, as well as authors of other relevant studies, to present their findings at the conference. Thirty-two presentations have been scheduled, including data from American, Swedish, Canadian, and Scottish clinical trials.

Screening is a method of detecting a disease in its early stages before symptoms occur. The procedures used in screening for cancer are not diagnostic -- they generally do not confirm that cancer is present but identify people in need of further testing. The goal of cancer screening is to reduce the number of people dying from cancer. As a research agency, NCI performs and funds cancer screening studies, but makes no formal recommendations for cancer screening.

The NIH Consensus Development Conference Program, which was established in 1977, draws on the most recent research knowledge to produce consensus statements on important and controversial topics in medicine. NIH Consensus Statements are intended to advance understanding of a technology or issue and to be useful to both health professionals and the public. The topic of the first NIH Consensus Development Conference, held in September 1977, was breast cancer screening. That statement is out of date.

NIH Consensus Statements are prepared by broad-based, independent panels of non-federal individuals knowledgeable in the field of medical science under consideration. The makeup of each panel represents various sectors of professional and community life and typically includes research investigators, health care providers, methodologists, and a public representative. The panel writes its statement based on: formal presentations and open discussion during the first day and a half; closed deliberations among the panel members during the remainder of the second day and morning of the third; public discussion of the draft statement on the morning of the third day. This statement is an independent report of the consensus panel and is not a policy statement of the NCI, NIH, or the federal government.

The final consensus statement will be presented at a press conference at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, 1997 at Natcher auditorium.

A conference flyer and registration form, are available by calling (301) 770-3153. The flyer contains the program agenda, including speakers and topics, directions to the conference site, and area hotels. The same information can be accessed on OMAR's home page, at, on the World Wide Web. At this address click on "Upcoming Conferences."

Note to Reporters: The report of the 1993 International Workshop on Screening for Breast Cancer was published in the Oct. 2, 1993 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. If this edition of the Journal is not available to you, you may contact the NCI Press Office at (301) 496-6641 to have a copy of the report mailed to you.

The Cancer Information Service provides a nationwide telephone service for cancer patients and their families, the public, and health care professionals. The toll-free number is 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-222-237); services provided in English and Spanish. People with TTY equipment may call 1-800-332-8615.

This document is available through the NCI's CancerNet services on the Web (, also on NCI's home page at (,and through Cancer Fax (dial 301-402-5874 from the handset on your fax machine).