Mayo researchers quantify post-USPSTF drop in screening mammo

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Screening mammography rates among women in their 40s have dropped nearly 6 percent in the U.S. since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against routine mammograms for women in this age group, according to an analysis presented Academy Health Annual Research Meeting, June 24-26, in Orlando, Fla.

"The 2009 USPSTF guidelines resulted in significant backlash among patients, physicians and other organizations, prompting many medical societies to release opposing guidelines," Nilay Shah, PhD, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery in Rochester, Minn., said in a release. "We were interested in determining the impact that the recommendations and subsequent public debate had upon utilization of mammography in younger women."

Using a large, nationally representative database of 100 health plans, researchers identified the number of screening mammograms performed between January 2006 and December 2010, and compared rates before and after the task force report. Nearly eight million women ages 40 to 64 were included in the analysis.

Prior to the release of the guidelines, the baseline monthly mammography rate was 40.9 per 1,000 women for the 40 to 49 age group and 47.4 per 1,000 women for the 50 to 64 age group, Shah and colleagues reported in the abstract.

Comparing mammography rates before and after publication of the guidelines, researchers found that the recommendations were associated with a 5.72 percent decrease in the mammography rate for women ages 40 to 49. Over a year, nearly 54,000 fewer mammograms were performed in this age group. However, the researchers found no change in screening patterns among women ages 50 to 64.

“These findings underscore the need for further research on delineating benefits and risks of screening mammography as it is difficult for patients and providers to decide how to proceed with numerous sources of contradictory information,” the researchers wrote in the abstract.

For more information on the impact of the USPSTF recommendations, read Health Imaging's cover story from September 2011.