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Less Frequent Mammograms May Lower False-Positive Results
Date:10/18/2011

released an outcry in the medical community, leading to this and other studies to try to determine the best timing for mammograms, the only screening tool shown to reduce deaths from breast cancer.

The new study gives a nod in the direction of the UPSTF recommendations, but practitioners aren't necessarily ready to let go of the long-standing once-a-year recommendation.

Hubbard, an assistant investigator with Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Wash., said she "definitely wouldn't make a specific recommendation for individual women. I feel it's really an individual choice where a woman needs to think about her own risk tolerance and also their own breast cancer risk."

"This gives women more information as to what the risks and benefits of mammography are," added Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It's a personal choice as to whether or not you absolutely have to screen at 40. As breast surgeons, we're still going to advocate that mammograms start at 40."

A second study in the same journal issue looked at more than 800,000 U.S. women screened from 2000 to 2006 and found that newer digital mammography and older film mammography were similarly accurate in finding cancer in women ages 50 through 79.

But in premenopausal women in their 40s, who tend to have denser breast tissue, digital mammography performed better. Again, though, the risk of false-positives was higher than with film mammography.

"There was a trade-off here as well," said Hubbard, who was also an author of this study. "In general, in women aged 50 to 79 the two modalities performed pretty equivalently, but in younger women the sensitivity of digital mammography was a little bit better so it found more cancers, but there was also a bigger decrease in specificity [resulting in more false-positives]."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on

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