Dr. Nina Vincoff, chief of breast imaging at Northwell Health...

Dr. Nina Vincoff, chief of breast imaging at Northwell Health said the updated recommendations would be welcome.  Credit: Northwell Health

A federal panel reduced the recommended age that women should start getting regular mammograms from 50 to 40 on Tuesday, citing updated evidence showing more women are getting breast cancer at young ages and Black women are 40% more likely to die from the disease.

Breast cancer survivors and experts on Long Island hailed the news but said the task force missed a chance to take a more aggressive stance on prevention guidelines by not recommending annual screenings or weighing in on the issue of additional screening for women with dense breasts.

“The good news is that they’ve lowered the age to start screening, which gives us the opportunity to identify breast cancers in your 40s,” said Dr. Nina Vincoff, chief of breast imaging at Northwell Health.

The draft recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a volunteer panel of experts, appeared to be a reversal of their controversial 2009 recommendation that set the age for regular mammograms at 50.


  • Women between the ages of 40 and 74 should receive a mammogram every other year, according to the draft recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a volunteer panel of national experts.
  • The panel cited updated research about breast cancer in women under 50 and pointed out Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.
  • This appears to be a reversal of the task force’s controversial recommendation in 2009 that raised the age of recommended regular mammograms to 50.

The updated recommendation is that women at average risk of breast cancer have mammograms every other year starting at age 40 through the age of 74. Women at high risk or with a history of breast cancer are not included in these guidelines.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“New and more inclusive science about breast cancer in people younger than 50 has enabled us to expand our prior recommendation and encourage all women to get screened every other year starting at age 40,” Task Force immediate past chair Dr. Carol Mangione, said in the statement with the announcement. “This new recommendation will help save lives and prevent more women from dying due to breast cancer.”

The task force also called for more research to understand why Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women and “eliminate this health disparity.”

Vincoff said annual screenings lead to better health outcomes.

“It would have been better if they had recommended yearly screening because that is the most effective at reducing your chance of dying from breast cancer." She added a yearly screening also increases the chance breast cancers are detected when they're smaller and easier to treat. 

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 300,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in both men and women in 2023. The disease will also cause about 43,700 deaths among men and women this year, it estimates.

“I think it's progress, I think it’s about time,” said Stacy Brennan, 61, a former cheerleading coach at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, who has been battling breast cancer since 2007. “It needs to be earlier. Who does it hurt?"

Brennan now lives in Deer Park and has been raising awareness and funds for groups including the American Cancer Society. She said she wishes age was not even a factor in determining whether a woman should be screened for breast cancer.

“Now you have all this knowledge and know it’s not all hereditary as people once thought,” Brennan said.

The task force also said current evidence is “insufficient” to determine whether supplemental screenings, such as an MRI or sonogram, should be recommended for women with dense breasts.

This lack of action frustrated JoAnn Pushkin, a Town of Huntington resident and breast cancer survivor, who has successfully battled for changes in New York State and federal guidelines so women who receive mammograms are informed about the density of their breasts.

“The entire reason we screen for breast cancer is to find it early when it is most treatable and survivable,” Pushkin said. “More than half of women in their 40s have dense breasts which not only increases their risk of developing breast cancer — but of having that cancer missed on a mammogram.”

The task force will review comments from the public and other groups before taking a final vote to ratify the recommendations.

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