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USPSTF now recommends starting breast cancer screening at age 40

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | May 08, 2024
Women's Health
After seeing an increase in breast cancer diagnoses in younger women, the United States Preventative Service Task Force now recommends that screening for all women start at age 40.

The USPSTF published its final recommendation statement last week, noting that screening should continue every other year through age 74. The USPSTF previously recommended that women in their 40s decide when they should start getting mammograms based on their health history and preferences.

The rates of women in their 40s diagnosed with breast cancer has been increasing about 2% each year, according to Dr. Wanda Nicholson, chair of the task force. In addition, Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women despite similar incidents of the disease.

“This recommendation will make a big difference for people across the country,” Nicholson said in a statement announcing the new recommendations. “By starting to screen all women at age 40, we can save nearly 20% more lives from breast cancer overall. This new approach has even greater potential benefit for Black women, who are much more likely to die of breast cancer.”

The final recommendation is similar to a draft that the task force issued a year ago. At the time, the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging said that the screening guidelines should go further and recommended that all women, and particularly Black women, undergo risk assessments at age 25 to determine if they should undergo more intensive screenings earlier than 40.

In its bulletin announcing the final recommendation, the task force noted that more research is needed about whether and how additional screening might help women with dense breasts stay healthy, and on the benefits and harms of screening in women older than 75.

The task force also noted that more research and efforts are needed to improve access to screening and treatment to address the disparities in screening and treatment based on race, income and location.

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