Women 80 and older benefit from mammography, but few are screened

April 22, 2008

In the first study to assess mammography in women 80 and older, researchers found that having regular mammograms significantly decreases the risk of being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, but only about one-fifth of women in this age group receive them regularly.

The study, which is being published online April 21 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), also showed that each mammogram that was performed in these older women was associated with a further reduction in the risk of being diagnosed with late-stage disease. It is estimated that approximately 17 percent of breast cancer cases in the U.S. are found in women 80 and older.

“This study suggests that mammography benefits may have no age limit and that women should consider being screened on a regular basis, even into their 80s and possibly 90s, depending on their current health status,” explained Brian D. Badgwell, MD, a surgical oncology fellow at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the study’s lead author.

“Mammography has been shown to be an excellent means of detecting breast cancer early, when it is most likely to be cured. We found that when breast cancer was diagnosed, it was more likely to be found at an early stage when a woman had at least three mammograms in the five-year period before diagnosis.” He recommended that healthcare providers and their older female patients—particularly women in reasonably good health—discuss the benefits of mammography.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammography beginning at age 40, with no upper age limit for women in good health. However, many older women aren’t following those guidelines. Real-world experience has shown that women are less likely to get regular mammograms as they age, especially if they have medical conditions that are likely to limit their life expectancy.

Using Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Medicare data for the years 1996 to 2002, Dr. Badgwell and colleagues examined mammography use in the five-year period before breast cancer diagnosis among 12,358 women age 80 and older. Those who had no mammograms during that period were considered nonusers; irregular users had one to two mammograms and regular users had three or more mammograms.

They found that only 22 percent of women were regular users of mammography, 29 percent were irregular users and 49 percent had no mammograms in the five years before their diagnosis. Regular users were more likely to be diagnosed with stage I disease, while stage II-IV breast cancers were more commonly found among the nonusers and irregular users. For example, 68 percent of regular users were found to have stage I disease, compared with 56 percent of irregular users and 33 percent of nonusers. Similarly, only 32 percent of regular users had stage II-IV cancers, compared with 44 percent of irregular users and 67 percent of nonusers.

Five-year survival from breast cancer was greatest among regular users (94 percent) and lower among irregular users (88 percent) and nonusers (82 percent). However, the researchers cautioned against linking mammography use to better survival, because survival from diseases other than breast cancer was also better among women who had regular mammography (80 percent) compared with irregular users (69 percent) and nonusers (59 percent)—suggesting that regular users may be in a better state of health compared with women who don’t undergo regular mammography.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Explore further: Specific long-term therapy may not prevent fractures in older women

Related Stories

Specific long-term therapy may not prevent fractures in older women

June 2, 2017
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes thinning of the bones, loss of bone density, and increasingly fragile bones. This puts people at higher risk for bone fractures. Risk for the disease increases as we age. In fact, 50% ...

Women taking indigestion drugs at increased risk of hip fracture after menopause

January 31, 2012
Post-menopausal women are 35% more likely to suffer hip fracture if they take indigestion drugs, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a figure which increases to 50% if they are also current or former smokers, suggests ...

Women twice as likely to see pot as risky: Ten-year decline in perception of marijuana risk

February 24, 2015
A study on the perceived risk of regularly using cannabis and the characteristics associated with these perceptions found that non-white, low-income women over the age of 50 were most likely to perceive a risk in using the ...

Period tracking apps failing users in basic ways, study finds

May 2, 2017
A new study finds that smartphone apps to track menstrual cycles often disappoint users with a lack of accuracy, assumptions about sexual identity or partners, and an emphasis on pink and flowery form over function and customization.

Facebook shapes women's body image – just not as you'd expect

January 30, 2015
If you're one of the world's 1.3 billion regular Facebook users, you'll know the feeling of being consumed by your news feed.

How OxyContin became America's most widely abused prescription drug

May 16, 2016
The drugmaker Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin two decades ago with a bold marketing claim: One dose relieves pain for 12 hours, more than twice as long as generic medications.

Recommended for you

Scientists develop blood test that spots tumor-derived DNA in people with early-stage cancers

August 16, 2017
In a bid to detect cancers early and in a noninvasive way, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood and have used it to ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

Popular immunotherapy target turns out to have a surprising buddy

August 16, 2017
The majority of current cancer immunotherapies focus on PD-L1. This well studied protein turns out to be controlled by a partner, CMTM6, a previously unexplored molecule that is now suddenly also a potential therapeutic target. ...

A metabolic treatment for pancreatic cancer?

August 15, 2017
Pancreatic cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer mortality. Its incidence is increasing in parallel with the population increase in obesity, and its five-year survival rate still hovers at just 8 to 9 percent. Research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.