A study in California, based on data on 189,734 patients, found that women who had lumps removed followed by radiotherapy lived as long as those taking the drastic step of surgical removal of the breasts.
Lead scientist Dr Allison Kurian, from Stanford University, said: "We can now say that the average breast cancer patient who has bilateral mastectomy will have no better survival than the average patient who has lumpectomy plus radiation.
"Furthermore, a mastectomy is a major procedure that can require significant recovery time and may entail breast reconstruction, whereas a lumpectomy is much less invasive."
Long-term survival rates did not differ significantly between women who underwent a double mastectomy and those who received a lumpectomy plus radiotherapy. After 10 years, 19 per cent had died.
Survival rates were slightly worse for women who had one breast removed compared with breast-preserving treatment, possibly for socio-economic or ethnic reasons, said scientists.
A number of celebrities have had double mastectomy operations. American singer Anastacia, full name Anastacia Lyn Newkirk, underwent the surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. The multiple award-winning star, 45, announced the second diagnosis in February, cancelling her planned European tour. She said she is "in the final stages of recovery after undergoing a double mastectomy".
James Jopling, director for Scotland at Breakthrough Breast Cancer said double mastectomies are not routinely offered to women in Scotland unless they have a family history of breast cancer or a high risk of recurrence.
"Outside of these groups there is no evidence to suggest that this would be of benefit," he said.