Every woman from the age of 40 or so is invited to start mammogram breast screening - but it's probably the most ineffective technology around, and is the one that will miss most cancers, a new study has discovered. Mammograms pick up just 33 per cent of breast cancers, whereas MRI screening - which is not currently used as part of national screening programmes - detect up to 93 per cent of cancers. Even ultrasound is more sensitive than mammograms, and picks up around 37 per cent of cancers. MRI is especially good at picking up cancer in its earliest stages, and when it is more likely to be successfully treated, say researchers at the University of Bonn. They made the discovery after screening 687 women with a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. The one downside is that women given an MRI are exposed to a much higher radiation level, and this may prove to be a health risk if the woman is at risk of breast cancer and so begins screening at a much earlier age. MRI is currently available only as a back-up to mammograms - but the research team wonder if it shouldn't be the other way round. (Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2010; doi: 10.1200/JCO.2009.23.0839).