Screening Women for Breast Cancer at Younger Age Can Save 19% Lives

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended that all women get screened for breast cancer every other year starting at 40, as new research suggests that fewer people could die of breast cancer if more start screening at a younger age. The task force estimated that 19% more women's lives could be saved if all women start getting mammograms at age 40, 10 years earlier than previously recommended. The draft recommendation comes as research shows that incidence of breast cancer in women 40 to 49 gradually increased from 2000 to 2015 and increased even more from 2015 to 2019, averaging a 2% annual increase. The task force wasn't able to give specific reasons for why there was an increase in incidence of breast cancer among women in their 40s, but an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine said two of the highest-risk factors for that age group are having "extremely dense breasts and first degree relatives with breast cancer." However, the task force recommends that women with dense breasts or aged 75 and older consult with their doctors about a screening schedule. The new recommendation also seeks to address health disparities, noting that Black women have a 40% higher risk of dying of breast cancer than white women, but that more research is needed to fully answer questions of disparity in breast health. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer and second most common cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. In 2009, the recommended age to start screening was 40, but the task force shifted it in 2016 to recommend women get biennial screenings from 50-74 out of concern that early screening could cause more harm than good. At that point, they recommended women in their 40s decide whether or not to start mammograms based on their individual health history and preferences.


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