Are Mammograms Too Risky?

After years of consensus about starting screening at age 40, one medical group makes the shocking claim that the risks could outweigh the benefits for many younger women.
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Risks Associated with Mammograms

The news was startling: The decade-old advice that every woman needs to get an annual mammogram starting at age 40 is obsolete, a respected medical society announced in April. These tests might be unnecessarily risky, they claimed -- at least for many women age 40 to 49. The bombshell came in new guidelines from the 120,000-member American College of Physicians (ACP), the nation's second-largest physicians group.

Only women at high risk for breast cancer should automatically receive annual mammograms in their 40s, according to the ACP. Other fortysomethings should have their physicians assess their risk of breast cancer and inform them of the "potential benefits and harms of screening mammography" before deciding whether to do it.

Harms? What harms? We consulted Etta D. Pisano, MD, Kenan professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Dr. Pisano won a 2006 Ladies' Home Journal Health Breakthrough Award for her work assessing digital mammograms.

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