Women are typically recommended to start getting mammograms at age 45, but some new research suggests that this recommendation may not be for everyone. The current recommendation is for women 45 and older to get a mammogram every year, and women age 55 and older to get one every other year.
However, according to a new study, some women should get mammograms started as early as age 30. A new study presented at the Radiological Society of North America suggests that yearly mammograms for women starting at age 30 are beneficial for women in a select group: women who have particularly dense breast tissue and women who have a personal or family history of developing breast cancer. This study used data from 5 million mammograms on 2.6 million women between the years 2008 and 2019.
Although the standard recommendation is for women to begin receiving mammograms at age 45, some organizations are beginning to recommend that they start earlier, even for women without a personal or family history of breast cancer.
While the American Cancer Society uses the standard age 45 recommendation, others such as the Radiological Society of North America have begun recommending annual mammograms at age 40, and the aforementioned mammograms for women with select histories or breast tissue types at age 30.
The findings of the search seem to indicate that there is no standard year for women to start getting mammograms, and that annual mammograms should be based on a variety of personalized factors, including: age, breast tissue density, personal or family history of breast cancer, and any other factors that a physician may find appropriate. Dr. Cindy Lee, who wrote the study, also points out that the American College of Radiology recommends that women receive a breast cancer risk assessment at age 30.
“Our findings,” Lee said, “raise the question whether this baseline risk assessment should include a baseline screening mammogram at age 30 to determine breast density for practices who routinely recommend screening for women in their 40s.” Lee continued: “Future research is needed to evaluate the risks and benefits of performing baseline mammograms at age 30.”
Lee’s research specifically outlines 3 different risk factors associated with breast cancer risk assessment: family history, personal history, and dense breast tissue. The reason for the dense breast tissue factor, according to Dr. Lee, is that “dense breasts can obscure the underlying mammographic abnormalities, including breast cancers.”
However, dense breast tissue should not be used as the sole basis for recommending annual mammograms starting at age 30 rather than age 40 or 45. Women who are younger are more likely to have dense breast tissue compared to older women, so this is not a risk factor on its own: it’s merely a reason why some breast cancers in younger women are more difficult to detect.
As research continues, more progress will be made on specific recommendations regarding mammograms, breast cancer diagnoses, and hopefully improving the ability for doctors to detect cancer as early as possible.