Several new studies reveal the recommendation to stop screening women between the ages of 40 and 49 for breast cancer using mammograms has begun to negatively affect the number of yearly mammograms performed in this age group. The recommendation from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) may also interfere with the possibility of the early detection of breast cancer.

After the USPSTF delivered their recommendations in November 2009, researchers at the University of Colorado Hospital saw a significant drop in mammograms in women in the 40-49 age range. “In the nine months after the guidelines, we saw 205 fewer women in the 40-49 age group than we did the previous year,” says Lara A. Hardesty, MD, lead researcher for the study, chief of breast imaging at University of Colorado Hospital and associate professor of radiology at University of Colorado School of Medicine.

In a separate study, Hardesty looked at the habits of physicians who refer patients for mammograms. The data shows referring physicians are beginning to follow the revised recommendations. Hardesty says, “If the trend continues, we may miss the opportunity to diagnose breast cancer in its early stages and early detection is crucial.”

Similarly, researchers at the University Hospitals at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, conducted a retrospective review to determine the potential impact of forgoing screening mammograms in this patient population. In the study, cancers found in the 40-49-year-old patients who underwent screening mammography presented at a much earlier stage of breast cancer than those patients who did not have screening mammograms.

The studies were presented Monday, May 2, 2011, at the 2011 American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) Annual Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The ARRS is the first and oldest radiological society in the United States.