Common wisdom is that getting a mammogram is a right of passage for women over 40. After all, the American Cancer Society currently recommends that women who have an average risk of breast cancer get screened yearly starting at age 45. At the absolute earliest, women typically get the choice of starting their screenings at age 40. However, new research supports some women as young as 30 getting mammograms — but only if they have a specific risk.
The November 2018 study, presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, found that an annual mammography screening starting at age 30 might help women with at least one of three particular risk factors. These risk factors include: dense breasts, a personal history of breast cancer, or a family history of breast cancer. Researchers analyzed data from more than 5.7 million mammograms done on more than 2.6 million women during an 8-year period. To come to these results, researchers compared the performance metrics among different groups of women based on age, risk factors, and other variables.
"Women under 40 have not been the focus of our attention when it comes to breast cancer screening," said researcher Cindy S. Lee, MD, in a press release. "Everyone is talking about the 40 to 49 range, and not the 30 to 39 age range. It's difficult to study this group because most women in this age range do not get mammograms, but some of these young women have increased risk for breast cancer and may need earlier and/or supplemental screening."
Since women under 40 who had one of those risk factors did indeed have an increased risk of breast cancer, this is important info for women of all ages to keep in consideration. After all, there's a chance that a friend of yours could have a risk factor or two that they should keep an eye on.
If you or a loved one suspects an increased risk of cancer, talk to your doctor about the best options. You never know: One decision to get a mammogram could potentially save someone's life!