Most US cancer centers recommend screening for breast cancer earlier than national guidelines

The majority of U.S. breast cancer centers recommend annual mammograms start at age 40, earlier than updated recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, according to an analysis published March 15 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed the screening guidelines from the websites of 606 U.S. breast cancer centers between December 2019 and July 2020. Of those, 487 centers provided mammography screening recommendations, while 119 did not. 

Of 429 centers that provided recommendations on both a specific age to start screening and how often, 80 percent differed from national guidelines. Most of the cancer centers recommend breast cancer screening start at age 40, while recommendations from the USPSTF suggest women begin getting mammograms every two years between age 50 and 74, according to the report. 

"Adoption of USPSTF recommendations is estimated to be associated with reductions in false-positive mammography findings (61 percent vs 42 percent of women over 10 years) compared with nonadoption of recommendations, with fewer biopsies, surgeries, and other therapies for the treatment of benign tumors or indolent cancers," the study authors said. "Earlier screening has both risks and benefits; patient decisions are based on complex individual factors that are best elicited and addressed through shared decision-making." 

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