The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) proposes reducing the recommended start age for routine screening mammograms from 50 to 40, according to a new draft recommendation statement released recently.
The last time the task force updated its screening recommendation was in 2016. At that time, USPSTF called for routine screening mammograms to start at age 50.
“In the 2016 recommendations, we felt a woman could start screening in her 40s depending on how she feels about the harms and benefits in an individualized personal decision,” USPSTF member Dr. John Wong told Medscape. “In this draft recommendation, we now recommend that all women get screened starting at age 40.”
For the updated recommendation, the task force called for screening every other year for women ages 40 to 74, as the benefits outweigh the potential harms. The USPSTF new draft carries a B grade, indicating strong confidence in the USPSTF in the evidence for benefit.
In addition, the Taskforce set a cutoff screening age at 74, stating that there was insufficient evidence to assess the benefit or harm of screening mammography in women aged 75 years or older.
This new start age closely (although not totally) relates to what the American Cancer Society has already been recommending for some time. The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 to 44 have the option to get a mammogram every year, women 45 to 55 get mammograms every year, and women 55 and older can switch to a schedule of mammograms every other year.
According to Dr. Wong, two significant factors prompted the change. First, more women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s. The second is the growing evidence that Black women get breast cancer younger, are more likely to die of breast cancer, and would benefit from earlier screening.
“It is now clear that screening every other year starting at age 40 has the potential to save about 20% more lives among all women, and there is even greater potential benefit for Black women, who are much more likely to die from breast cancer,” Dr. Wong said.