Science and economics support following USPSTF mammography screening guidelines

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1431130_82873643Here s another reason why it s important to follow the guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) regarding mammography screenings: It could save billions of dollars a year according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Current guidelines issued by the USPSTF recommend screening for women every two years beginning at age 50 unless there is a specific indication for earlier screening.This is in conflict with organizations such as the American Cancer Society which recommend screenings annually beginning at age 40.

In order to analyze costs associated with three different screening strategies annual screening for women ages 40 to 84, biennial screening for women ages 50 to 69 and biennial screening for women ages 50 to 74 researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and the University of Illinois at Chicago developed a computer simulation model. They found that annual screening (as recommended by ACS) would cost about $10 billion per year, while following the USPSTF guidelines would cost about $3.5 billion per year. These results show that not only are USPSTF guidelines supported by the science, they are also supported by the economics.

And Dr. Joann G. Elmore of the University of Washington School of Medicine and Dr. Cary P. Gross of the Yale School of Medicine write in an accompanying editorial that approaches to optimizing breast cancer screening should include educating women about the potential benefits, harms, and costs of different screening approaches.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross adds, As we ve said before when the USPSTF guidelines came out, the evidence supporting health benefits or lives saved from more frequent screening was far outweighed by the harm done from false positives: procedures, permanent damage, and psychological distress. Although there is much debate surrounding the advisory, more studies confirm that it s important to listen to USPSTF guidelines regarding mammography and the numbers in the current study further these recommendations.