NIH News Release
National Cancer Institute

Thursday, January 31, 2002

NCI Press Office
(301) 496-6641

NCI Statement on Mammography Screening

A recent report in the scientific literature has reawakened debate about the value of screening mammograms. The analysis, which appeared in The Lancet* on October 20, 2001, reviewed the large, long-term mammography trials upon which the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and other groups have based their recommendations and guidelines concerning mammography screening. This review cited a number of possible flaws in the conduct of the trials and the methods used to analyze the data.

The NCI has carefully considered the issues raised in The Lancet review. It has also considered the recent deliberations of the PDQ Screening and Prevention Editorial Board and of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and has consulted with a variety of experts in the field in order to determine whether a change in its position is warranted.

After due consideration, NCI continues to recommend that:

At the same time, NCI is determined to continue to address the uncertainties in the analysis of complex information surrounding screening mammograms. One of its highest priorities will be the monitoring and evaluation of new data on mammography from numerous studies now underway which will supplement the data from clinical trials.

Most important, NCI is strongly committed to further research on early detection of breast cancer. "It is absolutely essential to look beyond the debate over the limitations of current data and to accelerate the development of better screening tools," said NCI director Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D. "While we will continue to be vigilant in reviewing data on mammography, we must emphasize research to develop more effective screening tools and strategies that hold promise for improved detection of breast cancer and, ultimately, for saving lives."

For more information about cancer, visit NCI's Web site at

*Olsen, O. and Gotzsche, P. (2001). Cochrane review on screening for breast cancer with mammography. The Lancet, 358, 1340-1342.