U.S. Task Force Mammogram Recommendations Questioned

Study finds starting at younger age and screening more frequently results in more lives saved

MONDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Initiating mammography at a younger age and screening more frequently than the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends will likely result in more lives saved, according to a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

R. Edward Hendrick, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado in Denver, and Mark A. Helvie, M.D., of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, compared the USPSTF's recommendations for screening every other year in women aged 50 to 74 years to the American Cancer Society guidelines of screening every year in women aged 40 to 84 years.

The investigators found that initiating annual mammograms among women at age 40 reduced breast cancer deaths by 39.6 percent, while starting mammograms at age 50 and screening every other year reduced breast cancer deaths by 23.2 percent. The result was 71 percent more lives saved with yearly screening beginning at 40 years of age. The investigators also found that, on average, the potential harms of a screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years included the risk of a recall for diagnostic workup every 12 years, a negative biopsy every 149 years, a missed breast cancer every 1,000 years, and a fatal radiation-induced breast cancer every 76,000 to 97,000 years.

"Task force guidelines have created confusion among women, leading some to [forgo] mammography altogether. Mammography is one of the few screening tools that [have] been proven to save lives and our analysis shows that for maximum survival, annual screening beginning at 40 is best. This data gives women more information to make an informed choice about the screening schedule that's best for them," Helvie said in a statement.

Both authors disclosed ties to GE Healthcare, with one author also serving on the medical advisory boards of Koning and Bracco.

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