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  • Publication # 14-RA002

Biennial screening mammography for women over age 65 just as effective as annual screening

Women's Health

A new study looked at whether the benefits (detection of early-stage disease) and harms (false-positive mammography or biopsy recommendation) differ by screening interval and coexisting illness among older women who are screened in community practices. 

The researchers found that screening every 2 years for women aged 66 to 89 years, irrespective of coexisting illness, resulted in a similar risk of presenting with advanced-stage disease as screening once a year. Thus, annual screening for women without any coexisting conditions would not lead to a better balance of benefits versus harms, suggest the researchers. Their analysis found no association between comorbidity, screening interval, and tumor stage at diagnosis. 

Biennial screening mammography for women over age 65.The study included 2,993 older women with breast cancer and 137,949 older women without breast cancer who were screened at facilities that allowed a data linkage between the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium and Medicare claims. The database used is the largest available screening mammography dataset that links both cancer diagnoses from tumor registries and administrative data from Medicare claims. This study was supported by AHRQ (HS19482). 

For further details, see "Screening outcomes in older U.S. women undergoing multiple mammograms in community practice: Does interval, age, or comorbidity score affect tumor characteristics or false positive rates?" by Dejana Braithwaite, Ph.D., Weiwei Zhu, M.S., Karen J. Wernli, Ph.D., and others in the March 6, 2013, Journal of the National Cancer Institute 105(5), pp. 334-341.


Page last reviewed November 2013
Internet Citation: Biennial screening mammography for women over age 65 just as effective as annual screening: Women's Health. November 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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