Mammogram Rates Dropping Among U.S. Women
The percentage of U.S. women ages 40 and older who reported receiving a mammogram declined from 76.4% in 2000 to 74.6% in 2005, according to a report published in the Jan. 26 edition of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 1/26). For the study, researchers surveyed more than 14,000 women nationwide by telephone between 2000 and 2005.
The decline might partly explain a recent drop in U.S. breast cancer rates, meaning that if fewer women are undergoing mammograms, fewer cases of breast cancer are being diagnosed, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (Stobbe, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 1/25).
The report said, "Continued declines in mammography use might result in increased breast cancer mortality."
Blythe Ryerson, lead author of the study, said that although the findings show a decline of only about two percentage points, or about 1.1 million women, "any decline of any size is concerning, since we know mammograms work."
The report did not analyze mammography rates by age, geographic region or socioeconomic status.
Ryerson said her team plans to examine whether the decrease in mammography rates is concentrated among certain groups, such as the poor and uninsured, and is stable or increasing in other groups.
Each year, more than 200,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer and about 40,000 die from the disease (Peres/Graham, Chicago Tribune, 1/26). According to the report, screening might reduce breast cancer mortality by 20% to 35% among women ages 50 to 69 and by 20% among women ages 40 to 49, Reuters reports.
According to the study researchers, the reason for the drop is unclear but could be attributed to a range of factors. For instance, researchers wrote, "One study has indicated that breast-imaging facilities face challenges such as shortages of key personnel, malpractice concerns and financial constraints." They added, "Because the number of U.S. women aged more than 40 years increased by more than 24 million during 1990 to 2000, the number of available facilities and trained breast specialists might not be sufficient to meet the needs of the population, whose overall median age continues to increase" (Reuters, 1/25).
Peter Ravdin, an oncologist and biostatistician at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said that "people get used to [the mammogram] and take it for granted," so "the importance wanes a little." He added that access issues might be behind the drop in rates, noting that the number of uninsured is increasing while funding for public health services is being reduced. However, Ravdin said he did not agree with the idea that women have stopped seeking mammograms because of controversy or confusion about their efficacy (Chicago Tribune, 1/26).