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More women choose to remove healthy breast after cancer diagnosis

The number of women opting for surgery to remove both breasts after cancer is diagnosed in only one is rising despite a lack of evidence that it can improve survival.

The number of women opting for surgery to remove both breasts after cancer is diagnosed in only one is rising despite a lack of evidence that it can improve survival.

Researchers led by Stephen Edge of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, examined the frequency of prophylactic mastectomies in New York State between 1995 and 2005 using mandated statewide hospital discharge data and data from the state cancer registry.

The researchers identified 6,275 female New York residents who underwent prophylactic mastectomies. According to the data, tour out of five of the women had been diagnosed with cancer in one breast; the remaining percentage had no personal history of breast cancer.

But the researchers found that the number of prophylactic mastectomies increased during the time period --  especially among women with cancer in one breast. Over an 11-year span, the prevalence of these procedures, called "contralateral mastectomies," more than doubled.

In contrast, the prevalence of bilateral prophylactic mastectomies among women with no personal history of breast cancer increased only slightly.

"These data demonstrate that prophylactic mastectomy is an uncommon procedure that is performed most commonly on women with a personal history of breast cancer," Edge said in a statement. "Although the total number of prophylactic mastectomies performed per year was small, it appears that the use of the surgery is increasing."

The problem? There is little information indicating that such a procedure will prevent breast cancer among high-risk women or prevent tumors in the healthy breast of women whose cancer is limited to one breast.

Their findings are published in a recent issue of the journal Cancer.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com