Which women should undergo mammography in their 40’s?

New research suggests that women with certain risk factors should begin receiving mammograms earlier than other women.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “A pair of new studies clears up some of the uncertainty by finding that women who have a mother or sister diagnosed with breast cancer, or those who have unusually dense breast tissue, should have their first test at age 40 and repeat the exam at least once every other year.”

In “these women, who face at least twice the average risk of developing breast cancer in their 40s, the benefits of routine screening between the ages of 40 and 49 outweigh the risk of false alarms and unnecessary work-ups that might otherwise put them at greater risk than doing nothing, researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.”

The CNN “The Chart” blog reports, “One study finds that screening women in their 40’s who face twice the risk for breast cancer has the same benefits as screening normal risk women aged 50 to 74.”

The other “study compared annual and biennial screenings for women ages 40 to 49, who face twice the risk for breast cancer, recommending two-year intervals for screenings.”

The NPR “Shots” blog reports, however, that “Carol Lee of the American College of Radiology worries the research could end up costing lives.”

According to Lee, “This may discourage women who don’t have an identifiable risk factor from seeking screening, and therefore the potential lifesaving benefit of screening won’t be realized.”

Modern Healthcare points out that “current guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force recommend that women aged 50 to 74 receive mammograms every two years.”

MedPage Today reports, “Risk-based screening could mitigate concerns over the high ratio of harm to benefit for that age group, Otis W. Brawley, MD, of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, wrote in an editorial accompanying the Annals papers.”

HealthDay reports that the research was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

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