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Study: Biennial Mammography Advised for Women 50 to 74

Update Date: Mar 18, 2013 08:04 PM EDT

Women between the ages of 50 to 74 that get mammogram screenings every two years have a similar risk for advanced-stage breast cancer and a lower cumulative risk for false-positive results compared with women who undergo annual mammography, according to a new study released on Monday.

Karla Kerlikowske, MD, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, and a staff physician in the General Internal Medicine Section at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, California, and colleagues published their findings online March 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"You really decrease you chance of harm if you screen every two years," lead researcher Karla Kerlikowske, a primary care physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said to Bloomberg Businessweek.

"The fear was that if you do it every two years versus every year, you are going to have a really big tumor when you are diagnosed. The reality is these tumors just don't grow that rapidly."

The researchers looked at data from 11,474 women with breast cancer and 922,624 women without breast cancer who underwent screenings at U.S. facilities involved in the long-running Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) from January 1994 to December 2008.

Around 211,731 women received a breast cancer diagnosis in the U.S. in 2009 -- the latest year for which statistics were available -- and 40,676 will die each year from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S. and one of the leading causes of cancer death among women of all races and Hispanic women.

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