Experts recommend that women at least consider starting breast cancer screening once they turn 40. Now a new study suggests that is especially critical for Black women.
Looking at data on U.S. breast cancer deaths, researchers found — as other studies have — that Black women in their 40s were substantially more likely to die of the disease than other women their age. The disparity was seen between Black women and women of all other races and ethnicities studied.
That racial divide is a known one. This study took another step, trying to estimate the best starting age for breast cancer screening for women of different races and ethnicities.
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When should you be screened?
The upshot was that Black women should start sooner — a full eight years earlier than now recommended by guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Those guidelines say that women at average risk of breast cancer should start mammography screening at age 50. Based on the new findings, age 42 would be a better starting point for Black women.
Experts said the results are not enough to change breast cancer screening guidelines — which actually vary based on the group issuing them.
But they do emphasize that there’s “no one-size-fits-all” for every woman, according to Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer for the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The society’s own recommendations differ from those of the USPSTF — a government-funded panel of medical experts. The ACS recommends yearly mammography screening starting at age 45 for all average-risk women. It also says that women between the ages of 40 to 44 should have the option to start yearly screening.
For its part, the USPSTF says women in their 40s should have the choice to start mammography screening if they want it.
Kamal said the new study findings largely align with the ACS recommendations for average-risk women — though they do not