A new study finds that women in their 40s with dense breasts benefit from annual mammograms.
WOMEN IN THEIR 40s MAY BENEFIT FROM ANNUAL MAMMOGRAMS
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) ignited a firestorm of controversy in 2009 when the government agency recommended that most women between the ages of 50 and 74 should undergo screening mammograms every other year, instead of every year. Even more controversial was the USPSTF’s recommendation that most healthy women between the ages and 40 and 49 should no longer undergo routine screening mammograms. Numerous cancer advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society, subsequently recommended that the USPSTF’s revised guidelines for screening mammograms should, essentially, be ignored, and that women with an average risk of developing breast cancer should continue to undergo annual screening mammograms starting at age 40.
In 2010, following the USPSTF’s controversial recommendations, a significant drop in the number of annual screening mammograms performed on women in their 40s was observed, leading to concern among some breast cancer experts that many cases of breast cancer might go undiagnosed among 40 to 49 year-old women.
Now, a newly published study, which appears in the online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine, provides important new data regarding the potential impact of switching from annual screening mammograms to every-other-year (biennial) mammograms.
In this very large study, researchers analyzed prospectively collected data from mammography facilities throughout the United States that participated in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Data was prospectively collected on 11,474 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and 922,624 women without breast cancer.
The findings of this enormous public health study strongly suggest that the USPSTF’s recommendations that women between the ages of 50 and 74 undergo every-other-year mammograms may actually be reasonable and safe. When compared to women in this age range who underwent screening mammograms every year, the women who underwent biennial mammograms did not have a higher incidence of advanced-stage breast cancers. An additional important finding was that even women aged 50 or older with very dense breast tissue, or women above 50 who had taken hormone replacement therapy, appeared not to experience any harm by undergoing biennial mammograms instead of annual mammograms. As both of these factors increase a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, the finding of this study that women between 50 and 74 years of age can safely undergo screening mammograms every other year (instead of every year) is of particular significance.
In contrast to women between the ages of 50 and 74, this research study’s findings regarding women between the ages of 40 and 49 call into question the USPSTF’s recommendation that women in this age range need not undergo regular screening mammograms. Among the women in this study between the ages of 40 and 49, every-other-year screening mammograms (rather than every year) resulted in a significant increase in the incidence of more advanced-stage breast cancers. In fact, women in this age range, who often have very dense breast tissue, were 89 percent more likely to be diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancers if they underwent every-other-year mammograms when compared to comparably aged women with dense breast tissue who underwent annual screening mammograms.
I consider this to be a very important clinical research study, and its findings may well lead to changes in the current recommendations regarding screening mammograms. At the same time, it will be important to follow the nearly one million women who participated in this public health study, to see if breast long-term cancer survival rates are impacted by the timing of screening mammograms (i.e., annual versus biennial mammograms).
It is critically important to avoid the multiple lifestyle and dietary factors known to increase the risk of breast cancer. For more research-based information on this important topic, please read the extended chapter on breast cancer in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.
For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!
Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.com “Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.
Additional Links for Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS
Links to Other Breaking Health News
According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is more than 12 percent. A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers. If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.
Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author
I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month. Over the past 12 months, more than 3.1 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers. As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.