Women should screen for breast cancer less frequently and at a later age, according to new recommendations issued Monday by a well-respected preventative medicine panel.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force, which in 2002 recommended that women begin getting mammograms at age 40, now says 50 is the more appropriate age. The New York Times reveals the reason:
Over all, the report says, the modest benefit of mammograms — reducing the breast cancer death rate by 15 percent — must be weighed against the harms. And those harms loom larger for women in their 40s, who are 60 percent more likely to experience them than women 50 and older but are less likely to have breast cancer, skewing the risk-benefit equation. The task force concluded that one cancer death is prevented for every 1,904 women age 40 to 49 who are screened for 10 years, compared with one death for every 1,339 women age 50 to 74, and one death for every 377 women age 60 to 69.
The task force is also advising that women between ages 50 and 74 receive mammograms every two years, rather than annually. The new guidelines make exceptions for women at a heightened risk of breast cancer, the Times adds.