Thousands of women who attend routine breast screening checks in the UK are mislead into believing that they have the cancer and subsequently made to endure unnecessary treatment, researchers have alleged.
Nordic Cochrane Centre, in Copenhagen, headed an independent scientific review of the NHS breast screening programme.
Lead author Peter Gxtzsche cast a shadow of doubt over the value of the checks, saying that there is "no convincing evidence" that screenings helped save an estimated 1,400 lives each year.
"We arrive at a different conclusion than those who wrote the annual review. There is no convincing evidence that [screening] has saved lives," Times Online quoted him as saying.
Boffins, in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, also disputed that many healthy women who may have had benign conditions might have been unnecessarily "overdiagnosed" by doctors.
Gxtzsche added: "Each year 7,000 women in the UK receive an unnecessary breast cancer diagnosis and unnecessary breast cancer treatment because of overdiagnosis in the NHS breast screening programme."
Julietta Patnick, the director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, refuted the claims made by Gxtzsche's review.
She said: "Numerous independent studies have shown breast cancer screening reduces mortality. A report from the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that there is a 35 per cent reduction in mortality from breast cancer among regularly screened women aged 50 to 69 years."