Over the last year, there has been much confusion in the media about what age exactly is appropriate to start screening mammography in women. This confusion, in large part, was due to a study released last year that created doubt about the standard recommendation among medical and surgical disciplines to initiate screening mammography at age 40. Instead, they were considering changing the starting age to 50 years old. Well, that recommendation was probably not accurate. Read below:
The landmark breast cancer screening study of women 40-49, published online in Cancer, has proven that annual mammography screening of women in their 40s reduces the breast cancer death rate in these women by nearly 30 percent. The results of this largest study ever conducted on women in this age group confirm that the use of the age of 50 as a threshold for breast cancer screening is scientifically unfounded. Women should begin getting annual mammograms at age 40.
“This study, which looked at the performance of screening mammography as it is actually used, rather than relying on mathematical modeling, shows without a doubt that mammography decreases deaths from breast cancer in women aged 40-49 by nearly one third. There is no excuse not to recommend that average risk women begin annual screening mammography at age 40,” said Carol H. Lee, MD, Chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Commission.
In Nov. of 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) ignored published data showing a similar death rate reduction to this landmark trial, and withdrew support for screening women 40-49. This real world study is far more robust, based on real world numbers, and proves that the benefit is nearly twice that of the USPSTF estimate of 15 percent.
“This study shows that annual mammograms for women 40 and over result in a tremendously significant reduction in the breast cancer death rate for women 40-49. The age of 50 is an artificial threshold that has no basis in scientific fact. The debate is now over. Women should no longer be confused about the importance of annual breast cancer screening. Mammography saves lives.
The Swedish trial followed more than 600,000 women for 16 years. The number of breast cancer deaths among the women in the study who did not receive mammograms was twice as high as those who underwent screening. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. It kills around 465,000 people globally each year. Mammography can catch cancer early, when it is most treatable. While not a perfect test, at present, there is no other screening tool to replace it.