A new study of New York State data, called Surveillance of Prophylactic Mastectomy: Trends in Use from 1995-2005, found that the number of women opting for surgery to remove the healthy breast after a cancer diagnosis in one breast is rising, despite a lack of evidence the surgery can improve survival. The study, published in the December issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, also found that despite extensive press coverage of women who chose to have both breasts removed because of a strong family history of cancer, the rate of this surgery is low and has changed little in the last decade.
Researchers led by Stephen B. Edge, MD, FACS, of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., examined the frequency of prophylactic mastectomies in New York State between 1995 and 2005 using mandated statewide hospital discharge data combined with data from the state cancer registry. They identified 6,275 female New York residents who underwent prophylactic mastectomies. Eighty-one percent of the women had been diagnosed with cancer in one breast, while 19% had no personal history of breast cancer, according to a news release.
The researchers found that the number of prophylactic mastectomies increased during the time period, particularly among women with cancer in one breast. Over the 11-year study period, the prevalence of these contralateral mastectomies more than doubled. The prevalence of bilateral prophylactic mastectomies among women with no personal history of breast cancer increased only slightly.