Health Panel: Women Should Start Mammograms at 40

US task force issues new guidance, says thousands of lives could be saved with earlier screening
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2023 11:23 AM CDT
New Guidance: Start Mammograms at 40, Not 50
In this 2010 file photo, a radiologist checks mammograms in in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

For women in their 40s waiting it out til they turn 50 for their first mammogram, well, you have now gone from following official advice to procrastinating. As the Washington Post reports, the US Preventive Services Task Force is out Tuesday with draft recommendations that lower the age at which women should start getting mammograms from 50 to 40. Current guidelines calls for women in their 40s to discuss screening with their physician on an individual level, but more women in that age cohort are being diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It is now clear that screening every other year starting at age 40 has the potential to save about 20% more lives among all women, and there is even greater potential benefit for Black women, who are much more likely to die from breast cancer," says John Wong, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and a member of the task force. Black women suffer breast cancer earlier and die at a rate 39% higher than the overarching population of women, notes the LA Times.

Says Dr. Patricia Ganz, a breast cancer expert at UCLA, "I do think this is a very good recommendation: It leaves doctors and their patients a lot of flexibility." The guidelines aren't quite official yet: They will become so after the task force reviews feedback from a public comment period that ends on June 5, per USA Today. Of course, this is just one recommendation. The American Cancer Society, for example, already advises that women start screening by age 45. (More mammogram stories.)

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