A new report threatens to reignite the debate over when women should get mammograms. In the study Harvard University researchers say mammograms before age 50 could dramatically cut deaths from breast cancer.
Research showed that many women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50 who died had not ever been screened.
The authors suggested that guidelines should be changed to encourage earlier, regular mammograms for all women, said NBC News. But other experts called the study flawed and said it would confuse women more than they already are.
The study was published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
The National Cancer Institute pointed out that someone getting cancer who hadn’t been previously screened would not necessarily have survived if they'd had a mammogram. A mammogram would not necessarily have caught the tumor in time to save the patient’s life.
According to ABC News, researchers identified women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990 and 1999 at two Boston hospitals and tracked their cases until 2007.
They found that out of 609 confirmed breast cancer deaths, 395 of these women (71 percent) never had a mammogram prior to diagnosis. Napa Valley Register said that the remaining 29 percent were women who had received mammograms.
Massachusetts General Hospital wrote that 50 percent of these breast cancer deaths occurred in women under the age of 50, a population in which breast tumors typically grow more quickly compared to older women.
“The biological nature of breast cancer in young women is more aggressive, while breast cancer in older women tends to be more indolent. This suggests that less frequent screening in older women, but more frequent screening in younger women, may be more biologically based, practical, and cost effective,” study author Dr. Blake Cady, professor of surgery (emeritus) of Harvard Medical School, said in a press release.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women. ABC News reported that for years, a debate has raged about when women should begin getting mammograms.