American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Annual mammogram should start at age 40 years

September 1, 2011

Breast cancer screening with mammography should start at age 40 years and should occur annually after this, according to new guidelines.

Breast cancer screening with mammography should start at age 40 years and should occur annually after that, according to new guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). These guidelines replace ACOG's previous recommendation that mammographic screening begin at age 40 years, but then be offered every 2 years until age 50 years, and then yearly after that.

ACOG says the revised guidelines are a direct response to the high rate of breast cancer in the United States. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in American women after lung cancer. The revisions also are intended to aid in significantly reducing death from the disease through early detection.

According to ACOG, sojourn time, or the time between identifying a lesion on a mammogram and when that finding becomes symptomatic, varies but it is influenced by the patient's age at detection. For women 40 to 49 years of age, sojourn time is 2 to 2.4 years, although for women 70 to 74 years of age, it is from 4 to 4.1 years.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice bulletin no. 122: breast cancer screening. Obstet Gynecol. 2011;118(2 Pt 1):372-382.