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Latest Findings Back Mammograms for Women in Their 40s
Date:10/15/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Women in their 40s who are thoroughly confused by recent moves to push back the recommended age for having mammograms to 50 may find clarity in a new study that found having the screening scans in the 40s can save lives.

"The bottom line is everyone over the age of 40 should be getting a mammogram," said Dr. Kristin Byrne, chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"I have tremendous difficulty in not recommending an intervention [mammography] that a number of clinical trials suggest is beneficial," added Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "That's where we stand."

The cancer society recommends that "Women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health."

The statements follow the release recently of a Swedish study reporting that women in their 40s who get regular mammograms could reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer by as much as 29 percent. Although the researchers didn't look at the potential harms -- such as unnecessary biopsies -- related to screening, the study was one of the largest to date, examining data on more than one million women.

But that research followed on the heels of a Norwegian study questioning how much routine mammograms had really contributed to the decline in breast cancer death rates seen recently.

A debate on the value of mammography in the 40-49 age group has been raging since the 1980s. And the dialogue went up a few decibels last year when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that women in their 40s not at high risk for breast cancer could forego mammograms until they turned 50. Even, then, it said, women only needed to undergo screening once every two years.

"It's very confusing. There are no guidelines right now that wome
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