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Women over 40 responded to changes in mammogram recommendations

Prior to 1997, the general consensus among medical professionals was that women younger than 50 did not need screening mammograms. However, when the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) publicized new recommendations in March 1997 that said women between the ages of 40 and 49 should receive screening mammograms every year (ACS) or every 1 to 2 years (NCI), these women took notice, a new study finds.

Lisa Calvocoressi, Ph.D., of Yale University, and colleagues interviewed 1,451 women who received screening mammograms at 1 of 5 hospital-based clinics from October 1996 to January 1998, a period that intersected with the recommendation changes. After asking how often they believed women their age should have screening mammograms, the team found that the percentage of women aged 40 to 49 who endorsed annual screening increased from 49 to 64 percent. Further, 31.6 percent of women in the 40 to 49 age group who did not originally endorse annual screening changed their opinion and supported it in followup interviews.

Although women in their 40s said they supported annual screening mammograms, the researchers were not able to examine the link between belief and action. However, other studies have shown that after 1997, women in their 40s were less likely to have screening mammograms than women in their 50s and 60s. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11603).

See "Mammography screening of women in their 40s: Impact of changes in screening guidelines," by Dr. Calvocoressi, Albert Sun, M.D., M.P.H., Stanislav V. Kasl, Ph.D., and others in the February 1, 2008, Cancer 120(3), pp. 473-480.

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