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The Limits of Detection


Mammography is touted as a screening tool that saves women’s lives. A recent paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine put that claim to the test, noting that other outcomes are possible — that a woman’s breast cancer might have been treatable no matter when it was found or that she was diagnosed with a cancer that was not going to cause symptoms. Through their estimation, the researchers found that most women did not have their life saved by the screen. “The presumption often is that anyone who has had cancer detected has survived because of the test, but that’s not true,” researcher Gilbert Welch tells Tara Parker-Pope at The New York Times.

“Of all the women who have a screening test who have breast cancer detected, and eventually survive the cancer, the vast majority would have survived anyway,” adds Colin Begg from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “It only saved the lives of a very small fraction of them.”

The Scan

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

US Survey Data Suggests Ancestry Testing Leads Way in Awareness, Use of Genetic Testing Awareness

Although roughly three-quarters of surveyed individuals in a Genetics in Medicine study reported awareness of genetic testing, use of such tests was lower and varied with income, ancestry, and disease history.

Coral Genome Leads to Alternative Amino Acid Pathway Found in Other Non-Model Animals

An alternative cysteine biosynthesis pathway unearthed in the Acropora loripes genome subsequently turned up in sequences from non-mammalian, -nematode, or -arthropod animals, researchers report in Science Advances.

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.