Both women and health care providers have ignored U.S. Preventative Services Task Force 's 2009 recommendations against routine breast cancer screenings for women ages 40-49.
Researchers at Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital analyzed survey answers from 28,000 women and discovered that mammogram rates did not declined in any age group from 2008-2011 despite these recommendations. Among women ages 40-49, mammogram rates increased from 46.1 percent to 47.5 percent, although the increase was not statistically significant.
"If the USPSTF recommendations had been widely adopted, we would have expected to see a significant decline in mammography rates among women in their forties," said Dr. Lydia Pace, the study's lead author and internist Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
In 2009, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force discouraged routine screenings in women ages 40-49 because the diagnostic carries more risks than benefits in this age group. The Task Force recommends women seek routine screenings every two years beginning at age 50.
The recommendations were met with controversy in the mass media and medical literature. They defy the basic logic of early detection saves lives.
But the seemingly harmless mammograms do carry some risk. False positives lead to more testing and unnecessary invasive treatments.
Although it was formed to standardize screening recommendations, The US Preventative Task Force is not the only organization issuing recommendations. Susan G. Komen for the Cure still recommends mammograms for women ages 40-49, and more vocally. The Affordable Care Act pays mandates that mammograms beginning at age 40 and other women's preventative services are offered without a co-pay.
Even the Task Force recognizes that the early breast cancer screening is an individual decision between a woman and her doctor that should "take patient context into account, including the patient's values regarding specific benefits and harms."
More information about the study can be found here.