Saturday, May 13, 2023

Major U.S. panel drops longstanding mammogram recommendations from 50 years of age to 40

"All women should start getting regular mammograms at age 40, an influential advisory panel said, in a stark revision of standard medical advice."

That paragraph in a recent online "breaking news" short by The New York Times led to a story by staffer Roni Caryn Rabin indicating that women shouldn't wait until 50, as had been advised since 2009.

The new advice, the piece says, "comes as breast cancer diagnoses rise among younger women and mortality rates among Black women remain persistently high."

Troubling trends in recent years, the article continues, "include an apparent increase in the number of cancer diagnosed in women under 50 and a failure to narrow the survival gap for younger Black women, who die of breast cancer at twice the rate of White women of the same age."

Dr. Carol Mangione
The story quotes Dr. Carol Mangione, immediate past chair of the I.S. Preventive Services Task Force, as saying that " we don't really know why there has been an increase in breast cancer among women in their 40s, but when more people in a certain age group are getting a condition, then screening of that group is going to be more impactful."

The new recommendations, the Times piece goes on, "covers more than 20 million women in the United States between the ages of 40 and 49."

Breast cancer has remained "the second mosts common cancer in women after skin cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, after lung cancer, among women in the United States," the story notes. 

One possible reason for the increase in younger women, it is speculated, might be postponement of childbearing — or not having children at all. At least that's the opinion of Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society. "Having children before age 35," the Times story says, "reduces the risk of breast cancer, as does breast feeding."

More information about screening recommendations can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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