Regular Mammography Provides Breast Cancer Mortality Benefit for Women Over Age 70

Regular mammography screening for women over the age of 70 is associated with a significant reduction in mortality rate, according to a new study.

Mammography, or an x-ray of the breast, is recommended for women up to the age of 69 to screen for breast cancer, but there is controversy on whether women older than 70 should be included in screening recommendations. Due to this, some countries have varying age recommendations, and few studies have looked at the benefit of mammography for women over the age of 69.

This new study comes from researchers at Umeå University in Sweden, where different regions of the country use upper age limits of either 69 or 74 years old for recommended screenings. Researchers analyzed breast cancer mortality rates in women between 1986 and 2012, comparing results from regions with differing mammography recommendations. Only data on breast cancer deaths from cases diagnosed between ages 70 and 74 were included.

Breast cancer mortality rate was 20% lower for women invited to receive mammography between the ages of 70 and 74 compared to those who were only invited up until the age of 69 (95% CI, 0.75–0.85). The morality rate reduction rose to 27% for women who took part in screenings through age 74.

“The results confirm that the Swedish assessment of setting the upper age limit for mammography screening to 74 was justified,” Håkan Jonsson, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Global Health at Umeå University, who co-authored the study, said in a press release. “Given that we live longer and remain active in old age, it is also valuable to screen for cancer in order to start treatment in time.”

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.