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Here Are the Women Who Need Mammograms in Their 40s: Study
Date:5/1/2012

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new analysis that may help women in their 40s interpret mammogram guidelines says those with a family history of breast cancer or extremely dense breast tissue should start getting regular screenings.

The benefits of getting a mammogram every two years outweigh the risks for these particular women, who are at increased risk for developing breast cancer, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute-funded study.

"Among a group of women who have twice the average level of risk, screening every other year starting at age 40 has the same balance of benefit and harms as starting at age 50," said researcher Dr. Jeanne Mandelblatt, associate director for population sciences at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C.

The research is published May 1 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Experts currently disagree on the recommended frequency of screenings and the intervals between them. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force ignited debate when it recommended screening mammograms every two years for women ages 50 to 74. It advised women in their 40s at average risk of breast cancer to discuss the pros and cons with their doctors and then decide about the value of screening. Other organizations, including the American Cancer Society, continue to advise women 40 and older to get yearly screening mammograms.

The task force made the recommendations after it found that mammograms every two years in average-risk women in their 40s posed considerable harms, such as false-positive results causing anxiety or leading to unneeded invasive procedures.

For this study, Mandelblatt and her colleagues set out to identify specific factors that increased breast cancer risk for women ages 40 to 49. To do so, they evaluated data from 66 published articles and from the cancer institute's Breast Canc
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