Lombardi researcher shapes new mammography screening guidelines

February 15, 2010

A comprehensive analysis of various mammography screening schedules
suggests that biennial (every two years) screening of average risk women between the ages of 50 and 74 achieves most of the benefits of annual screening, but with less harm. The results represent a unanimous
consensus of six independent research groups from various academic institutions.  Their findings were published in the November 17, 2009 Annals of Internal Medicine.

Led by Jeanne Mandelblatt, MD, MPH, researchers from the NCI-funded Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) used independent models to examine 20 screening strategies with different starting and stopping ages and intervals. According to Mandelblatt, who is the associate director for population sciences at Lombardi, the analysis shows
that screening every other year maintains almost all of the benefit (an average of 81 percent) of annual screening with almost half the number of false-positives.

This analysis was one of many sources of evidence that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (an independent scientific panel convened by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) relied upon in developing the new mammography screening guidelines announced the same day.

While the model results confirmed that mammography saves lives, Mandelblatt explains that there are smaller overall benefits from starting screening earlier than age 50 because few women develop breast
cancer in the younger age groups, and screening younger women is accompanied by a large number of false-positive mammograms. “This can lead to stress for women and unnecessary biopsies. We need more research to understand how to tailor screening by individual risk,” she says.

Learn more about the New Task Force Guidelines for Mammography

Author: Karen Mallet