Healthy women over the age of 75 years might not benefit from continuing breast cancer screening according to new research from RTI Health Solutions, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
These findings represent the first data that quantifies the benefits of continued screening so it can be weighed against the possible harms. “A lot of women over 75 and 80 are receiving mammograms,” noted Xabier Garcia de Albeniz Martinez, MD, PhD, Senior Research Epidemiologist at RTI-HS and lead author of the study, “so we wanted to understand if this practice improves outcomes for women.”
Researchers used Medicare data to estimate the risk of dying from breast cancer over eight years of follow-up in women who continued getting yearly mammograms and in those who stopped screening. Results showed that continuing breast cancer screening in women 70-74 years old would reduce 8-year breast cancer mortality by one death per 1,000 women, with the 95 percent confidence interval ranging from two deaths to none. In contrast, continuing to screen women 75 years or older does not seem to affect 8-year breast cancer mortality. Regardless of age, women were less likely to receive aggressive therapies (radical mastectomy, chemotherapy) for breast cancer if they continued screening.
Findings from this population-based observational study are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Garcia-Albeniz X, Hernan MA, Logan RW, Price M, Armstrong K, Hsu J. Continuation of annual screening mammography and breast cancer mortality in women older than 70 years. Ann Intern Med. 2020 Feb 25;172:381-9. doi: 10.7326/M18-1199