Houston: Women at average risk of breast cancer should begin mammograms at the age of 45 rather than 40 and have them less frequently, American Cancer Society has said in a shift from its previous stance.
While the change may seem confusing, these are only guidelines and women should talk to their doctors about their individual risk factors, said Dr Laura Shepardson, a breast cancer expert at the Cleveland Clinic.
"Using that information in conjunction with her values and preferences for her own care, a woman and her clinician should be able to come up with a good screening schedule for that individual patient," Shepardson said in a news release.
The society, which has for years taken the most aggressive approach to screening, issued new guidelines yesterday, recommending that women with an average risk of breast cancer start having mammograms at 45 and continue once a year until 54, then every other year for as long as they are healthy and likely to live another 10 years.
Previously, the society recommended mammograms and clinical breast exams every year, starting at 40.
The new guidelines has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The new guidelines fall more closely in line with guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force, a government-backed panel of experts that recommend biennial breast cancer screening starting at age 50 for most women.
The Task Force's 2009 recommendations to reduce the frequency and delay the start of mammogram screening were based on studies suggesting the benefits of detecting cancers earlier did not outweigh the risk of false positive results, which needlessly expose women to additional testing, including a possible biopsy.
When the Task Force first recommended pushing back the start of mammogram screening from 40 to 50-years-old, many advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society, decried the change.
Some experts charged that it would result in more women dying from breast cancer.