Health officials across U.S are worried about falling rates in mammography use. According to official figures from National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of women taking the mammograms for detection of breast cancer risk, have fallen from 70 percent in 2000 to 66 percent in 2005.
Reasons for the observation differ. Some say they correspond with a fall in the use of hormone replacement therapy or HRT. Rates of HRT fell significantly after a federal report in 2002 linked it to the risk of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke.
Says lead author Nancy Breen of the study published in the journal Cancer: " Women who stop using HRT believe their risk of breast cancer has declined and so they don't feel the need for mammography.
"Women might not be going to their doctors as often for their hormones, and so are not being told it's time for a mammogram. That's a concern because just because they are not taking HRT does not mean they are not at risk".
In the study, the researchers examined data from about 10,000 women who were part of the National Health Interview Survey, an ongoing study of adults conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics that follows health trends.
The data showed that the rate of mammograms leveled in 2000, began to decline in 2003 and continued to decrease through 2005, the final year of the study.
It was also noted that a 6.8 percent decline in the rate among women ages 50 to 64 was the largest of any age group.
Experts say that this is worrying as women in this group are the most likely to benefit from receiving mammograms.
Says Robert Smith, the American Cancer Society's director of cancer screening:" A decline in mammography utilization is going to result in a higher rate of cancers diagnosed at an advanced stage.
And that will mean more aggressive treatment, and in some instances, it may mean that women who would have survived if their cancer had been found earlier will not survive."
Anees Chagpar, a breast cancer surgeon from the University of Louisville, feels another reason may be that many women are not aware of the cheap screening programs available. Other factors include a decline in the number of women having health insurance and health-promotion campaigns not laying sufficient stress on mammography.
Women have already showed a natural tendency to dislike these breast X-rays due to their discomfort.
Cancer experts are of the opinion that at present mammography is the only commonly prevailing, convenient and economically feasible method of detecting cancer, MRIs notwithstanding. The American Cancer Society recommends that women from 40 years and over go in for mammograms annually and all other women have one at least every two years.