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More Cancers May Be Missed Under Latest Mammogram Guidelines
Date:11/27/2012

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The contentious U.S. guidelines that recommend fewer mammograms for most women could lead to lower screening rates and a dip in breast cancer detection, two new studies suggest.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force -- an independent medical panel with federal support -- ignited a controversy when it recommended against routine mammography screening for most women in their 40s and advised less frequent screening for older women.

Instead, the task force said, women in their 40s can discuss mammography screening with their doctors, but should not automatically have it done. For women aged 50 to 74, the panel suggested a mammogram every two years. And for those age 75 and up, the group said there's too little evidence to recommend for or against screening.

That's out of step with advice from other groups, such as the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They urge women to get yearly mammograms starting at age 40.

The two new studies, to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, tried to look at the potential impact of the task force guidelines.

In one, researchers compared mammography screening rates among women on Medicare before and after the 2009 recommendations. They found that the rate inched up by about 1 percent between 2005 and 2009, with almost one-third of women having a mammogram in 2009.

But in 2010, the screening rate dropped to just under 31 percent -- a decline of 4.3 percent over one year.

The findings do not prove that the task force guidelines were the cause, but lead researcher Dr. David Levin said he thinks the pattern is clear.

"Up until 2009, the mammography rate was going up slowly. In 2010, there was an abrupt drop. It seems pretty obvi
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