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New Mammogram Guidelines Contradict Controversial Task Force Recommendations

Just when you thought breast cancer screening couldn’t get any more confusing, two national medical groups issued new mammogram guidelines Monday recommending that women begin routine screenings at age 40. Issued by the Society of Breast Imaging and the American College of Radiology, the guidelines contradict controversial recommendations released in November by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which suggested that routine screenings shouldn’t begin until age 50.

“The significant decrease in breast cancer mortality, which amounts to nearly 30 percent since 1990, is a major medical success and is due largely to earlier detection of breast cancer through mammography screening,” lead researcher Carol H. Lee, a radiologist at the New York-based Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said in a statement. ”It should be remembered that mammography is the only imaging modality that has been proven to decrease mortality from breast cancer. However major efforts continue to build on this success by developing additional methods to screen for early breast cancer.”

The Task Force guidelines stirred a storm amidst the congressional debate over the Democrats’ health reform bills, not least because those proposals would use some of those recommendations in setting coverage floors for insurance plans operating on exchanges.

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