CancerMedical DevicesWellnessWomen’s Health


The current recommendations for breast cancer screening, in my opinion, are a little lax. Mammograms are to start at age 40, but there is no recommended frequency until a woman reaches 50. Starting at age 50, women are to screen every two years to age 74. After 74, mammograms are discouraged.

A group of doctors in Great Britain set out to learn if yearly screening from age 40-49 was of any benefit, ie. we’re there few breast cancer deaths. Their results were published in the British journal, The Lancet Oncology. What they learned was yearly mammograms from age 40-49 did reduce breast cancer deaths when compared to women undergoing “standard care with no screening until the age of 50.”

Women, age 40-49, were divided into two groups: a yearly mammogram group and a group who had standard care, ie. no mammogram until age 50.

The yearly mammogram group had 55,883 patients.

The standard care group had 106,953 patients.


Yearly mammogram group: 83 (.14% of total)

Standard Care group: 219 (.20% of total)

What we learn from this is yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 result in a 27% reduction in breast cancer deaths after 10 years of follow-up compared to standard care that starts mammography at age 50 years.

I think this data shows conclusively that yearly mammography beginning at age 40 is beneficial to women and reduces breast cancer mortality to a significant extent (by nearly one-third). The authors stated, “Our results suggest a reduction in breast cancer mortality with annual mammography in women aged 40-49 within the first ten years of follow-up…”

DR. G’s OPINION: This is a good recommendation. Women under age 50 are being ignored for ten years. To assume women don’t get breast cancer before age 50 is just plain wrong. They certainly do. I agree yearly mammography should start at age 40, but women with a family history of breast cancer or who have the BRCA gene should start even earlier.

I definitely recommend starting mammograms at age forty. A yearly study until age 50 is advisable. You want to give a patient every opportunity available to show the doctor breast cancer is present. Early detection and treatment are the best method for saving lives.

Reference: wire-pick/hem-onc-picks/breast-cancer.

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