Lancet 9 Dec 2006

There is still plenty of room for debate about the usefulness of screening mammography over the age of 50, but after this study, I hope we will hear no more about lowering the starting age to 40. In 55,000 British women aged 39-41 who were randomised to receive it, it failed to show a significant effect on breast cancer mortality after ten years.

In the heyday of the Mad Cow panic, a professor of microbiology from Leeds prophesied that hundreds of thousands would die from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and we don’t yet know for certain that he is wrong, since it has an incubation period of up to 50 years. However, a moderate degree of complacency seems in order, since rates are falling rather than rising, and it remains about as common as getting struck dead by lightning. The accompanying editorial summarises the situation. It’s certainly a bit disquieting that there is the possibility of an undetectable and untreatable infectious agent lurking in one or two bags of blood somewhere in the UK: but it seems to me that the risk from receiving a transfusion is about the same as taking a short walk in the country.