The balance sheet of benefits and harms of breast cancer population-based screening in Europe: outcome research, practice and future challenges

Womens Health (Lond). 2015 Nov;11(6):883-90. doi: 10.2217/whe.15.34. Epub 2015 Nov 30.


Breast cancer screening programs are still object of harsh debate. In 2012, the Independent UK Panel reviewed the benefits and harms of mammography screening based on randomized trials and the EUROSCREEN Working Group reviewed European observational outcome studies. The conclusion was that screening programs should continue, while acknowledging that harms, such as the occurrence of false-positive results and overdiagnosis, can have a negative impact on a woman's life. Information on the balance sheet of the benefits and harms of breast cancer screening should help women and their physicians to make an informed choice. The future challenge for breast screening programs is to assess the feasibility, acceptability, effectiveness and impact of risk-based screening in order to maximize benefit-to-harm ratios.

Keywords: breast cancer; breast cancer mortality; outcome research; overdiagnosis; population-based screening; screening benefits; screening harms; screening mammography.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / adverse effects
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / adverse effects
  • Mammography / methods*
  • Mass Screening / adverse effects
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment