Mammograms recommended every two years, not annually

A recent study adds new perspective to the issue of mammogram screenings. It supports the 2009 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that mammograms are needed only every two years for women ages 50 to 74. Following this timeline, according to the research, could save as much as $4.3 billion per year in America's health care costs.

The journal Annals of Internal Medicine published research from the University of California at San Francisco that explores three possible options for mammogram screenings. The most cost efficient, it concluded, is biennial screenings of 85 percent of women ages 50 to 70, which creates an annual cost of $2.6 million.

Largest cost factors for screening frequency included the percentage of women screened, cost of mammograms, percentage of digital mammograms, and percentage of mammogram recalls.

Yearly mammograms increase the risk of false positives and fewer screenings have proven to be equally as effective, according to the study. However, the research noted that annual screenings should still be performed for women with high risk.

One researcher suggested improving routine breast assessments, referral services for high-risk women, improved genetic counseling, and higher-quality screenings.

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