You may have previously heard that women should begin receiving mammograms when they turn 40, but based on new research, the American Cancer Society (ACS) now emphasizes the increase of the average risk for breast cancer near menopause. The ACS’s new guidelines, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are more conservative than the previous ones. There are different recommendations for each age group:
According to ACS, this shift in guidelines was due to the cancer society’s focus on breast cancer risk in five-year increments instead of ten-year increments. ACS discovered from mammography that women from ages 45 to 49 and women from ages 50 to 54 have similar risks of cancer and reductions in mortality.
The new guidelines are based on the considerable review of the results of current scientific studies, such as one conducted by the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium on 15,440 breast cancer patients ranging from age 40 to 85 that is being published in the journal Jama Oncology. This study demonstrated that it is better to receive annual mammograms for women approaching menopause. Researchers claim that age is less important than menopausal status when determining when to receive mammograms, which is supported by biological evidence, because estrogen has a tendency to encourage the growth of tumors.
The ACS also discourages clinical breast exams, which involve a health professional inspecting and feeling a woman’s breasts for cancer signs, instead of breast cancer screening for women of all ages. They believe that there was no strong evidence that clinical breast exams were effectively saving lives, and instead recommends mammography.
Despite the evidence that studies have shown, mammography is still a controversial topic. For instance, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging are still recommending annual mammograms for women beginning at age 40. Some doctors believe that increasing that age of beginning to receive annual mammograms may put younger women’s lives at risk, since detecting signs of breast cancer early is crucial for increasing the chances of survival.
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