It’s official: Women should be screened for breast cancer starting at 40, 10 years earlier than previously advised

Women should begin getting regular mammograms to screen for breast cancer at age 40. That is official recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, finalizing a recommendation previously suggested last year. This is a significant change, shifting up the time they advise women to begin regular mammograms by 10 years.

Despite change in guidelines, Hackensack Meridian Health has long recommended patients begin yearly mammograms at age 40.

Screenings are still recommended every two years for women at average risk of breast cancer, though many patients and providers prefer annual screening. Previously, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force did not advise women to begin regular mammograms until age 50, advising women in their 40s who were concerned to talk to their doctor about the possible need for a mammogram.

Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said the shift to regular mammograms at age 40 could save 19% more lives. Breast cancer makes up nearly 30% of new cancers in U.S. women each year, and it’s estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in the course of their lives. The median age for diagnosis across all women is 62, but that can vary by racial group.

Other organizations have long pushed for regular mammograms beginning at age 40, including the American College of Radiology, the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But the task force is the official body that many primary care doctors follow for preventive testing. The change comes as breast cancer rates among women in their 40s are on the rise, increasing by 2% a year between 2015 and 2019.