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How Mammography at 40 Reduces Breast Cancer Mortality Rate

The debate on the age at which women should start screening for breast cancer keeps getting interesting as new data trickles in from researchers. Should the screening begin at 40 or 50 years? Why is age important?

When women start their annual mammography screening at the age of 40, it reduces mortality rates. Also, it increases the most life-years gained.

Latest data from the UK Age Trial shows annual mammography for people aged between 40 and 49 is associated with a 25 percent reduction in breast cancer death during the initial ten years of follow-up.

The researchers discovered that, to prevent one breast cancer related death,1150 women aged 40-49 years needed to be screened. The researchers approximated that for every 1000 women screened, one breast cancer death was prevented.

The following findings present cases for screening at age 40:

  • 40% of the years saved by mammography occur in women in their 40s
  • Breast cancer screening trials reveal that regular screening from age 40 reduces breast cancer mortality by a third
  • A sixth of breast cancers occur in women between ages 40 and 49
  • A majority of women who die of breast cancer in their 40s are women who did not go for screening

Even with such evidence on the value of screening at 40 years, policymakers will take more time to extend the age range. The delay is because they have to consider the costs (in terms of both financial and human), and COVID-19 makes it almost impossible to enhance such policies.

Apart from the debate on the first screening, there’s an ongoing debate on the frequency of screening. Some people propose screening should start at 50 with annual screening, while others suggest screening after every three years. There is also a concern of over diagnosing if screening begins at 40 years.

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