An expert panel said lowering the age recommendation from 50 to 40 could make a difference as more and more women in their 40s are being diagnosed with breast cancer.


An independent group of experts funded by the US government has suggested that women should get screened for breast cancer every other year starting at age 40.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says lowering the age recommendation from 50 to 40 could make a difference as more and more women in their 40s are being diagnosed with breast cancer.

According to data from the National Cancer Institute, the rates of breast cancer for women in their 40s have increased by two per cent annually since 2015.

“More women in their 40s have been getting breast cancer… so this recommendation will make a big difference for people across the country,” Wanda Nicholson, the Chair of USPSTF, wrote in a press release.

“By starting to screen all women at age 40, we can save nearly 20 per cent more lives from breast cancer overall. This new approach has even greater potential benefit for Black women, who are much more likely to die of breast cancer,” Nicholson added.

Researchers say the new guideline will also help to address another huge disparity in breast cancer treatment, the fact that the cancer death rate is 40 per cent higher among Black women who develop aggressive forms of the disease younger.

Breast cancer is also one of the most common forms of cancer and a leading cause of female mortality in the EU.

In 2022, breast cancer was the most diagnosed cancer in the EU, with an estimated 380,000 cases.

The European Commission lowered the age recommendations for mammography screenings from 50 to 45 in 2023. But women aged between 40 and 44 who don’t have symptoms are not included.

Which countries have the highest breast cancer screening rates?

In 2021, the European Commission proposed Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan to support member states with increasing uptake for screening programmes. It aims to offer breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer screenings to 90 per cent of those who qualify, by 2025.

Denmark, Finland, and Sweden were the top EU states for breast cancer screening, with 80 to 83 per cent of women between the ages of 50 and 69 receiving a mammogram in the last two years, according to 2021 data.

Malta and Slovenia followed closely behind with 77.8 per cent and 77.2 per cent respectively.

Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovakia, Hungary, and Latvia had the lowest rates of breast cancer screening, ranging from 20.6 per cent to 30.8 per cent.

Regarding the availability of mammography units per 100,000 inhabitants in the same age group, Greece and Cyprus had the highest rates, with 7.1 and 5.9 units respectively.

Belgium, Italy, and Croatia followed with rates ranging from 3.3 to 3.6 units. On the other hand, Germany, France, Romania, and Poland had the lowest availability of mammography units per 100,000 inhabitants, with rates as low as 0.5 to 1.1 units.

Eurostat said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on preventive healthcare and many screening programmes across EU hospitals must be taken into account when analysing data for 2021.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Roselyne Min


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