US Task Force Urges Mammograms at 40 Amid Rising Breast Cancer Rates

The US Preventive Services Task Force has revised its guidelines, recommending that women start receiving mammograms at age 40, a decade earlier than previously advised. The updated guidance suggests biennial screenings until age 75 to address the rising incidence of breast cancer in the US.

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US Task Force Urges Mammograms at 40 Amid Rising Breast Cancer Rates

US Task Force Urges Mammograms at 40 Amid Rising Breast Cancer Rates

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has revised its guidelines for breast cancer screening, now recommending that women begin receiving mammograms at age 40, a decade earlier than previously advised. The updated guidance, which suggests biennial screenings until age 75, comes as a response to the rising incidence of breast cancer in the United States.

Why this matters: Early detection and treatment of breast cancer can significantly improve survival rates and reduce mortality, making this revised guideline a crucial step in addressing the growingbreast cancer epidemic. As breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the US, this updated recommendation has the potential to save thousands of lives annually.

The decision to lower the recommended age for mammograms is based on additional evidence that has emerged since the USPSTF's 2016 guidelines. According to Dr. John Wong, vice chair of the USPSTF, "Our current data shows that this recommendation could potentially save as many as one out of five women who would otherwise die if they waited to be screened until they were 50. That's potentially saving 25,000 women from dying of breast cancer."

Breast cancer rates among women in their 40s have been increasing by 2% annually since 2015, underscoring the importance of early detection. With approximately 240,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year and 43,000 succumbing to the disease, it remains the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the US.

Dr. Maxine Jochelson, a radiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, believes the revision is long overdue, stating that "the data have shown for years that by not screening women between ages 40 and 50, if women in that age group develop breast cancer, they are more likely to need chemo, more likely to need larger surgery, and more often get more aggressive cancers."

The new guidelines should not affect insurance coverage for mammograms for women in their 40s, as the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act of 2019 mandates insurance companies to cover the cost of mammograms with no co-pay for women who get them as part of regular screening beginning at age 40. However, women with dense breast tissue, which accounts for half of the female population in the US, may still have to pay out of pocket for additional tests beyond a mammogram.

The USPSTF is calling for more research to understand the benefits and risks of additional screening with MRIs or ultrasounds for women with dense breast tissue. Dr. Wong emphasizes that "we would love to have sufficient evidence that would help women with dense breast tissue to live longer, healthier lives, and we are urgently calling for more research to obtain that evidence."

The updated USPSTF guidelines bring the recommendations in line with those of other organizations, such as the CDC and the American College of Radiology, which have been advocating for mammograms starting at age 40 and on a yearly basis. The revised guidance aims to improve early detection and treatment of breast cancer, as death rates have been declining with advancements in treatments. The recommendation marks a significant shift from the previous guideline of starting mammograms at age 50 and is expected to save thousands of lives each year.

Key Takeaways

  • USPSTF recommends mammograms start at age 40, 10 years earlier than previously advised.
  • Biennial screenings recommended until age 75 to combat rising breast cancer incidence.
  • Early detection can improve survival rates and reduce mortality by 25,000 lives annually.
  • Breast cancer rates among women in their 40s have been increasing by 2% annually since 2015.
  • Insurance coverage for mammograms for women in their 40s remains unaffected by the new guidelines.