Regular breast cancer checks for women over 30 could save 3,500 lives, researchers say
- Current NHS policy invites woman aged 50 to 70 for checks every three years
- Study found women history of disease or ‘dense’ breast tissue could be at risk
- Research suggested NHS screening could be missing 3,500 cases each year
Women at high risk of breast cancer should undergo regular scans from the age of 30, say researchers.
Current NHS policy is to invite women from the ages of 50 to 70 for checks every three years. But a study suggests those with a family history of the disease or with ‘dense’ breast tissue should be considered for regular mammograms from the earlier age.
Breast density is one of the biggest risk factors, increasing the chances of developing breast cancer by up to six times.
Breast density is one of the biggest risk factors, increasing the chances of developing breast cancer by up to six times
Dense breast tissue contains more glandular tissue and less fat and, although no different to the touch, it contains many more cells with the potential to turn cancerous.
Previous research has suggested the NHS screening programme could be missing 3,500 cases of breast cancer among women with dense breasts each year.
But this could be dramatically reduced if screening simply started from a younger age, the new study suggests.
Researchers from New York University examined nearly than six million mammograms of 2.6million women in the US.
They picked out women with dense breast tissue, those with family members with breast cancer, and those who had been diagnosed with the disease before.
And they found cancer was significantly higher in women with at least one of the three risk factors. Dr Cindy Lee, presenting her findings at the Radiological Society of North America, said: ‘Women with at least one of the risk factors may benefit from screening mammography beginning at 30.
Previous research has suggested the NHS screening programme could be missing 3,500 cases of breast cancer among women with dense breasts each year
‘Current breast risk prediction models incorporate different risk factors, which are weighed differently and can produce different results for the same patient.
‘This complexity can lead to confusion and uncertainty for both doctors and patients. Our study defined “increased breast cancer risk” in a simpler and more inclusive way.’
Last week, experts said breast cancer screening should also be extended to the over-75s, as a significant number still develop the disease in their late 70s and 80s.
A study of women around the age of 80 by the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care in Rochester, New York, found many with the disease at that age were suffering from an advanced and dangerous form.