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Breast Cancer Screenings Should Start Much Earlier Than Previously Recommended, According to Just-Released Guidelines

In a major update to breast cancer screening guidelines, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now advises that women start getting regular mammograms 10 years earlier than previously recommended. Here’s everything you need to know about this change, including how experts came to this conclusion.

USPSTF is an independent body of medical experts that publishes influential guidelines for cancer prevention protocols. As The New York Times reported, the task force issued a draft of new advice for breast cancer screenings on Tuesday (May 9).

Prior to this week, women at average risk for breast cancer were advised to get mammograms every other year beginning at age 50. Now, USPSTF recommends they start at 40.

This new advice applies to people who have a family history of breast cancer and who have dense breasts. It does not apply to people who have already had breast cancer or who have certain genetic mutations, like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, that predispose them to developing it.

The update marks an apparent reversal in USPSTF’s thinking. In 2009, the task force actually raised the recommended age from 40 to 50 due to concerns that unnecessary breast cancer screenings and biopsies would do more harm than good. Given a number of concerning recent trends in breast cancer cases and deaths, experts are now amending their advice.

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