While the recommendations for screening mammography vary among organizations, a plethora of research supports annual breast cancer screening starting at 40 years old. Currently, the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) recommend annual screening beginning at 40 years old. The American Cancer Society and the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) support giving women the option to start annual mammograms at 40, but differ on guidelines for annual/biennial screening recommendations.
Research on the benefits of annual screening mammography beginning at age 40 (from the ACR’s mammography website):
- National Cancer Institute data shows that breast cancer death rates have dropped nearly 40 percent since the advancement of mammography in the 1980’s.
- The largest (Hellquist et al) and longest running (Tabar et al) breast cancer screening studies in history demonstrated that regular breast cancer screening reduced breast cancer deaths by approximately one-third in all women ages 40 and older.
- Research published in Cancer indicated that women who died in their 40’s from breast cancer were among the 20 percent who did not have annual screening mammograms.
- An analysis in the American Journal of Roentgenology found that approximately 6500 more women would die from breast cancer each year if the US Preventative Services Task Force guidelines for screening mammography starting at 50 years old were followed.
Additionally, the ACR and SBI are the first to recognize that African-American women have a higher breast cancer risk than other groups, and should be screened accordingly. The ACR and SBI now recommend that all women undergo risk assessments at age 30 to determine whether or not they should begin screening mammography before their 40th birthday.