3. Discover more acceptable and effective means of risk reduction for women at early points along the continuum of breast cancer initiation and progression. Research on the biological processes that increase a woman’s risk may also lead to new intervention strategies directed toward those processes. An underlying context of this discussion of early detection is that new, more acceptable preventive strategies could be applied more widely and efficiently. That is, a therapy with little or no toxicity or adverse consequences would be much more acceptable to women with only a low or a moderate risk.
In the meantime, enthusiasm for new technologies should be tempered by consideration of the ultimate goal: to reduce the morbidity and mortality from breast cancer among women. It is important to keep in mind that the ability to move toward detection at an earlier point in the continuum of abnormalities does not necessarily mean that further progress toward decreasing disease-specific morbidity and mortality will occur. It is also essential to understand what is being detected and how to appropriately intervene. Decisions about the use of new technologies should be firmly grounded in scientific evidence if investigators are to optimize the benefits and minimize the risks of early breast cancer detection.
Sharyl J. Nass, I. Craig Henderson, and Joyce C. Lashof
Committee on Technologies for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer
National Cancer Policy Board INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE and Division of Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL