The dangers of overscreening

Those who think “more testing is better medicine” needs to become better versed in the dangers of false positives:

Many of the scans yield false-positive results, which lead to unnecessary (and risky) treatments. Even recommended tests yield a scary number of false readings. Take mammograms, an often promoted routine exam. According to research compiled by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:

* The percentage of false-positive readings is between 7 percent and 8 percent for women aged 40 to 59 who took the test.

* That figure drops to around 4 percent for women 60 to 79, mainly because the chances of getting breast cancer rise the older women get.

* If every woman between 40 and 59 in the United States had a mammogram, a few million would be fretting unnecessarily over a wrong result.


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