Reversal of Current Mammogram Guidelines Urges Start at 50, Not 40

RedTracker| In a controversial recommendation today, an influential group that provides guideance to doctors, incurance companies and policy makers said that women age 50 to 74 should have mammograms less frequently, every two years, rather than annually. It also recommended that women stop breast self-examination.

The new recommendations are different than those recommended by the same group, with different members, seven years ago. That group took no position on self-examination.

Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chairwoman of the task force and a professor of biomedical informatics at Arizona State University, said the guidelines were based on new data and analyses and were aimed at reducing the potential harm from overscreening.

Over all, the report says, the modest benefit of mammograms — reducing the breast cancer death rate by 15 percent — must be weighed against the harms. And those harms loom larger for women in their 40s, who are 60 percent more likely to experience them than women 50 and older but are less likely to have breast cancer, skewing the risk-benefit equation. The task force concluded that one cancer death is prevented for every 1,904 women age 40 to 49 who are screened for 10 years, compared with one death for every 1,339 women age 50 to 74, and one death for every 377 women age 60 to 69.

All new recommendations apply to women who have no risk history for breast cancer. A via New York Times