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Why Begin Screening at Age 40?

In October 2015, the American Cancer Society published new breast cancer screening guidelines for women at average risk in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Despite these guideline changes, The University of Kansas Health System firmly believes mammograms should begin at age 40.

Onalisa Winblad, MD, section head of Breast Imaging at The University of Kansas Health System, offers six reasons why breast cancer screening should begin at age 40.

  1. Greatest reduction in mortality, most lives saved and the most life years gained.

    Annual screening mammography starting at age 40 results in the greatest mortality reduction, the most lives saved and the most years gained.

  2. Breast cancer risk dramatically increases starting at age 40.

    Breast cancer incidence increases substantially around age 40. The incidence rate for women ages 40-44 is twice that for women ages 35-39.

  3. One in six breast cancers occur in women ages 40-49.

    Our radiologists say one in six breast cancers occur in women ages 40-49.

  4. The longest breast cancer screening trials show regular mammograms decrease deaths by one-third.

    The largest (Hellquist et al.) and longest (Tabár et al.) running breast cancer screening trials in history reconfirmed that regular mammography screening decreases breast cancer deaths by about one-third in women age 40 and older.

  5. A published analysis shows fewer screenings for women age 50 and older will mean fewer lives saved.

    An analysis (Hendrick and Helvie) published in the American Journal of Roentgenology shows that at current mammography screening rates, annual screening starting at age 40 saves approximately 6,500 more women's lives each year in the U.S. than the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommendation of screening every other year starting at age 50.

  6. Mammograms cut the risk of dying from breast cancer nearly in half.

    A study (Otto et al.) published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention shows mammography screening cuts the risk of dying from breast cancer nearly in half.