Although regular screening mammograms have been shown to prevent breast cancer deaths in women over the age of 50, new evidence from a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that women over the age of 75 no longer benefit from these exams. After age 75, women are more likely to die from other causes than from breast cancer.
Dr. Xabier Garcia-De-Albeniz of the Harvard School of Public Health, RTI Health Solutions and Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues studied data on more than 1 million women aged 70 to 84 who underwent mammograms from 2000 to 2008. Women in the study had a life expectancy of at least 10 years and no prior breast cancer diagnosis.
They found that in women aged 70 to 74, the benefit of screening outweighed the risks, which can include overdiagnosis, overtreatment and the anxiety of a potential breast cancer diagnosis. In women 75 to 84, screening did not substantially reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.
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