NHMRC warns thermography not demonstrated effective in breast cancer detection

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Summary media release information

20 December 2012
NHMRC Media Release
Contact for further information: 
NHMRC Media Team: David Cooper, 0422 008 512

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has added to warnings to consumers that thermography (thermal imaging) has not been demonstrated to be effective in detecting breast cancer.

Today NHMRC released a position statement titled ‘Is there a role for Thermography in the early detection of breast cancer?’ stating that there is no evidence of sufficient quality to demonstrate thermography is effective for early detection or screening for breast cancer.  Mammography remains the most effective screening test for the early detection of breast cancer.

“Mammography based breast screening has a high detection rate and can detect breast cancers when they are small and confined to the breast,” NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick Anderson said.

“Our position statement will help correct public misperceptions and will assist women to make informed decisions about their health care.”

Thermography is based on the theory that skin over a malignant breast lesion is warmer than the surrounding tissue. Infrared cameras take ‘heat pictures’ to detect cancerous tissue.

Thermography is associated with high false positive and high false negative rates and a recent systematic review concluded there is insufficient evidence to support its use in breast cancer screening or as an adjunct to mammography or other diagnostic tests.

NHMRC’s thermography position statement is supported by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and Cancer Australia.

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