Screening mammograms in young women inaccurate

August 1, 2010

In women younger than 40 years of age, screening mammograms have low accuracy, detect few cancers, and lead to high rates of unnecessary recall and additional imaging, according to a new study.

In women younger than 40 years of age, screening mammograms have low accuracy, detect few cancers, and lead to high rates of unnecessary recall and additional imaging, according to a recent study.

Researchers pooled data from 6 mammography registries across the United States from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. They included 117,738 women aged 18 to 39 years when they had their first screening or diagnostic mammogram and followed them for 1 year.

The 637 screening mammograms performed on women 18 to 24 years of age found no cancers. For women 35 to 39 years of age, who had the largest number of screening mammograms (n=73,335) performed, almost 13% were recalled (95% CI, 12.4%-12.9%), sensitivity was 76.1% (95% CI, 69.2%-82.6%), and cancer detection rate was 1.6 cancers per 1,000 mammograms (95% CI, 1.3-1.9 cancers per 1,000 mammograms). For diagnostic mammograms across all age groups, sensitivity was 85.7% (95% CI, 82.7%-88.7%), and the cancer detection rate was 14.3 cancers per 1,000 mammograms (95% CI, 13.0-15.7 cancers per 1,000 mammograms).

Yankaskas BC, Haneuse S, Kapp JM, Kerlikowske K, Geller B, Buist DS; Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Performance of first mammography examination in women younger than 40 years. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2010;102(10):692-701.