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Women advised to begin screening for breast cancer at age 40

Updated: May 24, 2023

The U.S. Preventive Task Force is now recommending women begin mammogram screening at the age of 40 to reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.

"There are a lot more women getting breast cancer, and that influences our recommendation," said Dr. Carol M. Mangione, professor of medicine and public health at UCLA. Mangione served as the chair of the United States Preventive Services task force.

Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer among women. In 2009, the recommendation for the mammogram test was raised from age 40 to 50, but experts say the recent increase in breast cancer diagnoses requires more urgent precautions.

The latest research finds that statistically, Black women are more likely to develop advanced breast cancer and at younger ages. They also face a 40% higher mortality rate due to breast cancer than their white counterparts.

Factors in breast cancer diagnosis revolve around hormones. For women, hormones are impacted by reproductive history, physical health, as well as genetics. For Black women, the health disparities are factored by access barriers to mammograms and quality healthcare, as well as the health issues persistent in the Black community due to lifestyle and systemic impact.

"Because of structural racism and health equity problems, there's probably a step off at every single part of that pathway for Black women," Dr. Mangione said. "The cumulative effect is they end up with higher mortality."

The task force is calling Black women in for clinical trials to compare the effectiveness of annual versus biennial screening in reducing the severity of lingering statistics.

"Believe it or not, there's never been a clinical trial in the U.S. that has compared annual to biennial with our current technology and treatments," Mangione says. "This is a big evidence gap."

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