Early screening in childhood cancer survivors may reduce breast cancer deaths by more than half, according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Female survivors of childhood cancer who have been exposed to chest radiation are at a signifyingly increased risk for breast cancer, according to a press release. Annual mammography and MRI are recommended for this population; however, benefits, harms, and costs remain uncertain. 

Data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and 2 breast cancer simulation models from the Collaborative Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network were used by researchers to determine the harms, benefits, and cost-effectiveness in this population. The starting age of the population was 25 years. 

Researchers found that compared with no screening, annual mammography with MRI averted 56% to 71% of deaths, according to the press release. Even without a mammography, MRI alone averted 56% to 62% of deaths. According to the press release, the most cost-effective age to begin screenings was 30 years. 

“Early initiation (at ages 25 to 30 years) of annual breast cancer screening with MRI, with or without mammography, might reduce breast cancer mortality by half or more in survivors of childhood cancer” the abstract states.

The findings underscore the importance of MRI in screenings, according to the press release. A focus should be placed on identifying effective policies and interventions to make screenings more readily available for high risk populations, which will help ensure coordinated and comprehensive care for high risk survivors, according to the study. 

Reference: 
Early screening may reduce breast cancer deaths by more than half in childhood cancer survivors (News Release), Boston, MA, July 6, 2020, EurekAlert!, Accessed July 7, 2020

Jennifer M. Yeh, PhD et al. Clinical Benefits, Harms, and Cost-Effectiveness of Breast Cancer Screening for Survivors of Childhood Cancer Treated With Chest Radiation, July 7, 2020, Boston, MA, Annals of Internal Medicine, accessed July 7, 2020