American College of Physicians (ACP) developed the guideline to present the available evidence for screening mammography to physicians and women between the ages of 40 and 49 and to increase their understanding of the benefits and risks of screening mammography in women within this age group. While it is more established that mammography reduces mortality from breast cancer in 50- to 70-year-old women - and that women in this age-group should be routinely screened - the evidence is not as clear-cut for younger women.

"The guidelines will empower women between the ages of 40 and 49 to become part of the decision-making process and to encourage them to discuss with their physicians the benefits and risks of mammograms," said Lynne Kirk, MD, FACP, President of ACP. The guideline states that, according to the evidence studied, breast cancer risk is not evenly distributed in women between the ages of 40 and 49. Thus the benefits of screening mammography are not uniformly applicable in women in this age group. Therefore, women 40 to 49 years of age need to take into account their level of risk and the possible benefits and harms of screening mammography.

The main benefit of screening mammography is a light decrease in breast cancer mortality. However, the risks associated with screening mammography include false-positive results, possible treatment for lesions that would not have become clinically significant, and radiation exposure.

"It is important to tailor the decision of screening mammography by discussing the benefits and risks with a woman, addressing her concerns, and making it a joint decision between her and her physician," said lead author Amir Qaseem, MD, PhD, MHA, Senior Medical Associate in the Clinical Programs and Quality of Care Department of the Medical Education and Publishing Division at ACP.; Source: American College of Physicians