Study: Risk assessments show half of women may benefit from early mammography

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Approximately half of all women may benefit from mammograms beginning at age 40, according to results of a study recently presented at the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBS) annual meeting.

Some recommendations advise women not begin receiving annual mammograms until either age 45 or 50. The American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines were updated in 2015 to raise the recommend age to begin screening from 40 to 45 for most women. 

But that may not be soon enough, said lead researcher Jennifer Plichta, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, when presenting the results.

“We believe formal risk assessment is essential for women ages 40 to 44,” she told attendees, “in order to identify those who require screening mammography to start at the age of 40 and those who would qualify for screening MRIs and genetic testing."

Plichta and her fellow researchers conducted an analysis to investigate the new breast cancer screening guidelines from the ACS, which were adopted by the ASBS with several additional conditions. They analyzed the breast cancer risk of more than 900 women between the ages of 40-44 who were patients at their facility from March 2011 to October 2015.

They found that nearly half of the women studied met either the ACS (39 percent) or the ASBS (11 percent) requirements for early mammography, with a significant number of patients meeting eligibility standards for screening MRIs (32 percent) and for genetic testing (25 percent).

"Critical to the development and interpretation of both of these new guidelines is formal risk assessment," said Plichta. "Furthermore, risk assessment is needed not only to determine who qualifies for mammography, but also who may require screening MRIs and/or genetic testing."