UCSF Professor Describes Evolving Science of Breast Cancer Screening

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations for Screening Mammograms

  • Women between the ages of 40 and 49: Educate women about the risks and benefits of screening. The decision should be based on an individual’s situation and preference.
  • Women between the ages of 50 and 74: Routine mammograms every two years in the absence of symptoms.
  • Women over the age of 75: No recommendation, since little research has been performed in this age group.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force updated its recommendations for screening healthy women using mammography. The task force is an independent panel of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that makes recommendations on a broad range of clinical preventive health care services, such as screening, and develops recommendations for primary care clinicians.

Of particular note was the task force’s advice that for women between the ages of 40 and 49, the decision to have a mammogram should be made individually, taking into account their perspectives about relative benefits and harms.

The change has been criticized by some physicians and cancer advocates, and praised by others – particularly those who support individualized and evidence-based medicine.

George Sawaya, MD, a UCSF professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, was a member of the task force that developed the updated recommendations.  Listen to him discuss the rationale, and the role of science in advancing change in clinical practice, on this video.