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Debate Over Breast Cancer Screening: Age 40 or 50 for Mammograms?

Daniel Kim Views  

There’s a growing belief that regular mammograms for breast cancer screening should begin at age 40 rather than the previously recommended age of 50.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has stated that women between the ages of 40 and 74 should have a mammogram every two years, based on an analysis of seven randomized clinical trials and 13 non-randomized clinical trials carried out by Meta Platforms, Inc.

According to the existing breast cancer screening guidelines in effect since 2016, having a mammogram every two years from the age of 50 to 74 is most effective for women. For women under 50, it is recommended that they decide whether to have screening tests based on their risk level.

The USPSTF stated that starting mammograms from age 40 could save 20% more lives than the existing guidelines. They further explained that having a mammogram every year could increase false-positive results, unnecessary biopsies, and inaccurate diagnoses, so women at average risk of breast cancer should have it every two years.

The USPSTF also added that regular biennial mammograms are unnecessary for women over 75, as current knowledge suggests that mammograms do not increase survival rates in this age group.

The USPSTF guidelines apply to women at moderate risk of breast cancer, women with a family history of breast cancer, and women with dense breasts.

On the other hand, the USPSTF guidelines do not apply to women with a history of breast cancer, those at high risk due to genetic factors, those with a history of high-dose chest radiation at a young age, or those who have had lesions found in previous biopsies. These women should discuss the frequency of mammograms with their healthcare professionals.

The USPSTF recommends that women with dense breasts have a mammogram every two years, although it’s uncertain whether additional screening tests would be helpful.

Some experts countered this by saying that MRI scans can help reduce false positives and lower the risk of cancer in women with dense breasts. They argued that the USPSTF’s claims lack sufficient evidence to establish a guideline and are not significantly different from existing breast cancer screening recommendations.

Last year’s study using data from the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) found that annual mammogram screenings for women aged 40 to 74 were most effective in reducing breast cancer mortality rates.

In other words, the study suggested that performing mammograms on women aged 40 to 74 every year could reduce breast cancer mortality rates by about 40%, which is superior to the 30% reduction achieved by following the 2023 USPSTF guidelines of biennial screenings for the same age group.

Therefore, experts argue that it’s effective for women at moderate risk of breast cancer to start having mammograms annually from the age of 40.

The research team agreed that there hasn’t been enough research on mammograms to establish detailed breast cancer screening guidelines. They suggested that each patient should decide on the best screening method with their healthcare professionals, considering their risk of breast cancer.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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