THURSDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Mammograms given to women under 50 with a moderate family history of breast cancer can spot cancers earlier and increase the odds for long-term survival, a new study shows.
British researchers examined mammogram results for 6,710 women with several relatives with breast cancer, or at least one relative diagnosed before age 40, finding that 136 were diagnosed with the malignancy between 2003 and 2007.
These women, who researchers said were probably not carriers of a mutated BRCA breast cancer gene, started receiving mammograms at an earlier age than recommended by the U.K. National Health Service, which currently offers the screenings every three years for women between the ages of 50 and 70.
Findings showed their tumors were smaller and less aggressive than those in women screened at typical ages, and these women were more likely to be alive 10 years after diagnosis of an invasive cancer, the researchers said.
"We were not entirely surprised at the findings," said lead researcher Stephen Duffy, a professor of cancer screening at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London.
"There is already evidence that population screening with mammography works in women under 50, even if it is somewhat less effective than at later ages. However, there is evidence that women with a family history have denser breast tissue, which makes mammography a tougher job, so we were not sure what to expect," Duffy noted.
"We did not explicitly exclude BRCA-positive women," he added, "but very few with an identified mutation were recruits, and because the women had a moderate rather than an extensive family history, we suspect there were very few cases among the vast majority who had not been tested for mutations."
Duffy juxtaposed his findings against the current debate among U.S. public heal
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