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Experts question routine mammograms in elderly
Date:4/1/2014

found that healthy older women who were screened with mammography were less likely to die from breast cancer, but screening was not beneficial for women with serious medical problems.

Modeling studies indicate mammograms would prevent two cancer deaths for every 1,000 women in their 70s who were screened every two years for 10 years. However, these studies also predicted that about 200 of those women would receive test results indicating they had cancer when they did not, and about 13 would be treated for cancers that posed no harm.

Doctors use complex algorithms to assess breast cancer risk, but these calculations lose their ability to predict disease in the oldest women, because risk factors change as women age.

For example, how old a woman was when she first got her period and whether she bore children and at what age are important factors in determining breast cancer risk for women under 75. But these factors are no longer relevant once women reach the age of 75. Instead, the main risk factor for developing breast cancer is age itself.

"The things that may be predictive in older women likely have to do with recent hormone exposure, such as lifelong obesity, high bone density or taking hormones, which are associated with higher estrogen levels," said Mara Schonberg, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Distant hormone exposures, such as the age a woman first got her period, may not make much difference in who gets breast cancer in this older population. Older age is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer."


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Contact: Laura Kurtzman
laura.kurtzman@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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