May 30, 2024

U.S. Health Experts Advise Women to Begin Regular Mammograms at 40 Instead of 50 to Combat Rising Breast Cancer Rates

Pandemic Physician
Pandemic Physician

American health experts on Tuesday revised the standard medical advice on mammograms in response to increasing breast cancer diagnoses among younger women and persistently high mortality rates, particularly among Black women. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds at average risk for breast cancer to start receiving regular mammograms at age 40, instead of waiting until age 50 as previously advised.

The Task Force’s guidelines on preventive health have a significant influence on US practices, and this new draft advice is a notable change in direction. In 2009, the recommended age for routine mammograms was raised from 40 to 50, due to concerns that earlier screening could lead to unnecessary treatment in younger women.

However, recent troubling trends in breast cancer include an apparent increase in diagnoses among women under 50 and a failure to close the survival gap for younger Black women, who experience breast cancer mortality at twice the rate of their white counterparts. Dr. Carol Mangione, the immediate past chair of the Task Force, notes that while the reasons for the increase in breast cancer among women in their 40s remain unclear, screening in this age group will have a more significant impact.

The new recommendation affects over 20 million women in the United States aged between 40 and 49. In 2019, about 60% of women in this age group reported having a mammogram in the past two years, compared to 76% of women aged 50 to 64 and 78% of women aged 65 to 74.

The Task Force has commissioned studies of breast cancer specifically among Black women and is calling for a clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of annual and biennial screening for this demographic. More research is needed to understand the factors driving the racial disparity in breast cancer outcomes.

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