The updated recommendations are especially urgent for women of color, who are more likely to die of breast cancer, researchers say.
WASHINGTON – An independent group of researchers recommends that women in their 40s be screened for breast cancer every two years. A draft recommendation for healthcare professionals released on Tuesday is in line with a growing medical consensus on the importance of early screening.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force previously recommended that all women over the age of 50 get mammograms every two years. The panel is made up of independent medical experts whose recommendations affect health care and insurance costs.
The task force said the updated recommendations apply especially to black women, who they say are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer and can often develop life-threatening cancers at a young age.
“Ensuring black women begin screening at age 40 is an important first step, but it’s not enough to improve the health inequalities we face related to breast cancer,” the vice president of the organization said in a statement. Task Force Wanda Nicholson.
Mammograms, which are x-rays of the breast, are an essential tool for diagnosing breast cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States
The American Cancer Society, a group unrelated to the task force, currently recommends that women age 45 and older get screened biannually. The ACS recommends women get annual mammograms when they turn 55, to catch the cancer earlier when it’s easier to treat and less deadly.
The task force draft highlights that more research is needed on early preventive care for breast cancer, particularly pointing to the challenges posed by women’s various body types.
“Nearly half of all women have dense breasts, which increases their risk of breast cancer and means mammograms may not work as well for them,” the group said in a statement on the draft recommendation. “We need more studies showing how additional screening with breast ultrasound or MRI might help women with dense breasts.”
Mammograms don’t work as well on people with dense breasts because low-dose X-rays have a harder time penetrating the tissue to produce a clear image.
“What we don’t know yet, and urgently ask for more research, is whether and how additional screening for women with dense breasts might be helpful, whether through ultrasound, breast MRI, or something else,” said John Wong. , a task force physician.
Draft recommendations are posted publicly on the task force’s website to solicit public feedback, through a review process that runs through June 5.