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The study was funded by the Cancer Registry of Norway and the Research Council of Norway. It was led by Dr. Mette Kalager of Oslo University Hospital with collaboration from Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

More than 1 million women worldwide are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and more than 500,000 die from it. In the United States last year, there were an estimated 194,280 new cases and 40,610 deaths from the disease.

The American Cancer Society has long advocated that women get annual breast cancer screenings starting at 40.

The small benefit of mammograms in the latest study may be because the women weren’t followed long enough, suggested Otis Brawley, the cancer society’s chief medical officer, in a statement.

“The total body of the science supports the fact that regular mammography is an important part of a woman’s preventive health care,” Brawley said. “Following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer improves the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated successfully.”

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Online:

Journal: http://www.nejm.org