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For Younger Women, Mammograms Not Too Effective: Study

Before 40 and without symptoms, screening mammography may be inappropriate, researchers say

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Mammograms in women under the age of 40 result in many return visits for follow-up screenings but don't turn up cancer very often, a new study finds.

Almost 30 percent of U.S. women between the ages of 30 and 40 report getting mammograms, although they're not generally recommended until age 40.

In the new study, Bonnie C. Yankaskas of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and colleagues studied a database of 117,738 women who got their first mammogram between the ages of 18 and 39. The researchers followed the women for a year to see what happened to them.

The researchers found that screening mammograms -- not diagnostic mammograms, which try to resolve a specific problem -- among women aged 35 to 39 had poor accuracy and high rates of return visits for more screening.

The screening turned up an average of 1.6 cancers per 1,000 women, according to the report published online May 3 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

For this age group, the researchers write that "our findings support a need for serious discussion about the appropriateness of mammography in women without the presence of symptoms."

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has details on mammograms.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Oxford Journals, news release, May 3, 2010

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