NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 2, 2004

Women with a family history of or genetic predilection for breast cancer could benefit from a yearly magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) scan in addition to an annual mammogram, according to a new study by Dutch researchers.

While traditional mammograms still catch some cancers that MRIs don't, women in the moderate-to-extremely-high risk category may be better off with an annual MRI scan as well:

  • MRIs detected 79.5 percent of invasive growths in women from the moderate-to-high risk category, compared with only 33.3 percent for mammography.
  • As many as 10 million to 15 million high-risk U.S. women over 25 might benefit from breast MRIs.
  • Mammography is less effective for high-risk women who tend to be younger: the procedure misses seven of 10 cancers in women under 50.

However, women at normal risk for breast cancer are advised not to get the MRIs, which can cost around $1,300. In the study, MRIs resulted in twice as many needless follow-up scans as mammograms, and three times as many needless biopsies.

Source: Laura Johannes, "Dutch Study Finds MRI Scans Improve Breast-Cancer Detection," Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB109103790396976512,00.html?mod=todays_us_page_one


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