Early Breast Cancer Screening Reduces Mortality Risk - European Medical Journal

Early Breast Cancer Screening Reduces Mortality Risk

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NEW research suggests that annual breast cancer screening starting at age 40 years, and continuing to age 79 or older, results in the highest reduction in mortality with minimal risks. At the moment, only 50% or less of eligible females participate in annual screening mammography, which has been shown to reduce breast cancer deaths by 40%, despite breast cancer being the second most common cause of cancer death for females in the USA.  

Previously, there has been much debate over the ideal age to start breast cancer screening, and how often females should be screened. In a new study, Debra Monticciolo, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, and colleagues, performed a secondary analysis of Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) 2023 median estimates of breast cancer screening outcomes. The benefits of screening, including mortality reduction, life years gained, breast cancer deaths averted, and its risks, were compared for four scenarios: biennial screening of females 50–74, biennial screening between 40–74, annual screening between 40–74, and annual screening between 40–79.  

A review of these estimates demonstrated that annual screening of females between 40–79, with either digital mammography or tomosynthesis, showed a mortality reduction of 41.7%, whereas biennial screening of females between 50–74 and 40–74 showed a mortality reduction of 25.4% and 30.0%, respectively. Annual screening of females between 40–79 had the lowest rate of false-positive screens (6.5%) and benign biopsies (0.88%), compared to the other screening frequencies.  

The team’s main takeaway from this research was the benefit of annual screening between the ages of 40–79, giving the highest reduction in mortality. “The risks of screening are non-lethal and manageable for most women,” Monticciolo commented. “But advanced breast cancer is often lethal. Breast cancer is easier to treat if it’s found earlier; we’re able to spare women extra surgeries and chemotherapy.” Though no data were available for females above the age of 79 years, the team added that screening past this age would be even more beneficial in reducing mortality.  

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