A commonly-stated advantage of neutering bitches is a significant reduction in the risk of mammary tumours, however the evidence for this has not previously been assessed by systematic review. The objectives of this study were to estimate the magnitude and strength of evidence for any effect of neutering, or age of neutering, on the risk of mammary tumours in bitches. A systematic review was conducted based on Cochrane guidelines. Peer-reviewed analytic journal articles in English were eligible and were assessed for risk of bias by two reviewers independently. Of 11,149 search results, 13 reports in English-language peer-reviewed journals addressed the association between neutering/age at neutering and mammary tumours. Nine were judged to have a high risk of bias. The remaining four were classified as having a moderate risk of bias. One study found an association between neutering and a reduced risk of mammary tumours. Two studies found no evidence of an association. One reported "some protective effect" of neutering on the risk of mammary tumours, but no numbers were presented. Due to the limited evidence available and the risk of bias in the published results, the evidence that neutering reduces the risk of mammary neoplasia, and the evidence that age at neutering has an effect, are judged to be weak and are not a sound basis for firm recommendations.
© 2012 British Small Animal Veterinary Association.