There was an instant backlash from oncologists and gynecologists yesterday after a government panel recommended that that women in their 40s stop getting annual mammograms. “I think it is unfortunate that they came to this conclusion,” the director of imaging at one breast cancer center told the Los Angeles Times. “It would be a huge step backwards for women’s health in this country.” Since women in their 40s account for a quarter of breast cancer diagnoses, they fear a reversal in advances in early detection and treatment.
The new guideline was based on the argument that the risk that a woman under 50 will be diagnosed with breast cancer, 1.44%, is too low to justify the risk of a false positive, as high as 10%. The American Cancer Society, which won't change its guideline, said the ruling is tantamount to concluding that screening 1,300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but that screening 1,900 women in their 40s to save one life is not.