Annual screenings not the key to reduced ovarian cancer mortality

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An eight-year study led by Dr. Saundra Buys of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center has found that annual screening for ovarian cancer does not reduce disease-specific mortality in women. In fact, the research team actually found that annual screenings with either cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) or transvaginal ultrasound increased harms associated with subsequent and unnecessary invasive medical procedures.

The study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was a randomized controlled trial of over 78,000 women aged 55 to 74 years old, each of whom was assigned either annual screenings or usual care at 10 screening centers across the United States between November 1993 and July 2001. Ultimately, there were 118 deaths caused by ovarian cancer in the intervention group and 100 deaths in the usual care group.

Given the number of false positives and increased harms associated with these annual screenings, which appear to serve no preventive function, ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross believes ovarian cancer screening at any interval is, unfortunately, fruitless.