Research published online today by researchers in the Netherlands finds that regular mammograms may reduce a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer by nearly half. The reduction in risk was even greater for women ages 70 to 75.
In North America, when to begin breast cancer screening and how often to screen has been a hot topic since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force changed its recommendations in 2009 and the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care followed suit this year. Their new recommendations are that women of average risk for breast cancer can wait until age 50 to begin getting mammograms, and they only needed screening every two years instead of annually. The American Cancer Society has disputed this and continues to recommend annual screening starting at age 40, as does the American College of Radiology.
The study looked at 755 cases of women living in the Netherlands who died from breast cancer between 1995 and 2003 and more than 3,700 matched controls. In the Netherlands, women between 50 and 75 have access to bi-annual mammograms performed by by mobile units and an estimated 80 percent of eligible women participate in this program.
The researchers found that women who got at least three mammograms had a 49 percent reduction in their risk of dying from breast cancer. In addition, for women between the ages of 70 and 75, this reduction in risk was 84 percent.
One of the authors of the study, which appears in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, told The Huffington Post that in principle, their results on the effectiveness of mammography are applicable to all countries.