Women were advised to wait until age 40 before having an annual mammogram, a limit that has been pushed back to age 45. Now, the new recommendation is to have a biennial mammogram starting at age 50.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) used to recommend that women at moderate risk of developing breast cancer have annual mammograms starting at age 40. On October 20, this recommendation was extended to age 45 and older. New recommendations are now advocated.
The new recommendations were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It is now recommended to have a biennial mammogram from the age of 50. “Mammography every two years for women aged 50 to 74 years at moderate risk provides the best balance between the benefits and hazards of screening.”
The reason the age of mammograms was delayed was because of recommendations made by six independent research groups. They take into account the latest figures on breast cancer but also take into account the more advanced treatments against this disease. The researchers believe that women at moderate risk do not gain much by starting mammograms when they are younger, that it avoids a very small number of deaths compared to the risk of false positives and the need for biopsies, which is “over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment.
“It’s important to remember that not all women have a moderate risk of breast cancer,” warns Jeanne Mandelblatt, MD, of the Georgetown Medical School Cancer Center in Washington. “The bottom line is that mammography saves lives.” She adds that getting a mammogram and the frequency of the exam “is a personal decision.”
Mammography every two years between the ages of 50 and 74 has been shown to reduce the risk of death from breast cancer by 26 percent. Starting at age 40 prevents one more death in every thousand women but at the cost of significantly more false positives and unnecessary treatments.
Although breast cancer mortality has been steadily decreasing since 1990, it is the most common cancer among women worldwide. 40,300 women died from it in 2015.