The American College of Physicians, recommend that women ages 40 to 49 consult with their doctors about whether to undergo routine mammography screening, the Washington Post reports.
According to the group, the recommendations are based on a comprehensive review from a six-member expert panel of 117 studies conducted between 1966 and 2005, including an evaluation of the negative consequences of mammograms.
The panel found that routine mammography screening might reduce the breast cancer death rate by about 15% among women in their 40s, but the data are so unclear that the rate "could be larger or nearly zero." The panel also found that routine mammograms lowered the death rate by 22% among women ages 50 and older.
The possible "modest" benefit of routine mammography screening for women in their 40s must be weighed against the risk of false-positives -- which often leads to repeated exams and biopsies, causing anxiety, pain and possibly disfigurement -- the panel concluded.
The group recommends that younger women consider the harmful effects of mammograms and that women who decide not to undergo screening review the decision every one or two years until age 50.
For women at higher risk of breast cancer -- which includes women who have a family history of breast cancer, those who had their first period before age 12 and women who had their first child after age 30 -- an annual test is appropriate, the group said.
According to the Post, the guidelines differ from the currently held standards established by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, which say that women should begin having mammograms every year or two at age 40.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation