Friday, August 3, 2012

A Very Bad Year For Komen Foundation...Criticized Again

by Gary Snyder

After more than a year of significant missteps, Susan G. Komen for the Cure proclamations have been called into question. Komen's messages in its 2011 campaign stated that 98 percent of women who get the screening tests survive at least five years, while 23 percent of women who do not get mammograms survive that long — a difference of 75 percentage points.

Now, two researchers argue that randomized controlled trials have shown mammograms reduce the risk of dying from the disease by far less. One authority, Harvard Medical School radiologist Dr. Daniel Kopans, said that screening has been associated with a decrease in mortality due to breast cancer, but the decrease is not as dramatic as Komen suggested. "The ad campaign doesn’t present screening as a genuine choice — it suggests you'd have to be crazy or stupid not to get screened," said editorial author Dr. Steven Woloshin, a professor at Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine. 

Randomized control trials have found, in general, that screening reduces the number of lives lost to breast cancer by approximately 30 percent, said Kopans. In the U.S., deaths due to breast cancer also have decreased by about 30 percent since screening was instated in the 1980s.

Organizations pushing cancer screening "have their work cut out for them," Kopans said. "They're trying to convince women to take a test that nobody wants to take." In this case Komen exaggerated, he said. The Komen website does provide accurate information on the benefits and harms of screening, but Woloshin said he hopes Komen reconsiders their use of statistics if they run a similar ad campaign this October.

Komen's campaign was promoted last October and was designed and funded by the Komen foundation, which has raised over $1.9 billion for breast cancer awareness, research and support to patients. (link)

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