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May 3rd, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Mammograms in your 30s: ‘A needle in a haystack’

By Sabriya Rice
CNN Medical Producer

An estimated 29 percent of U.S. women in their 30s undergo mammograms each year, but false-positives and callbacks for additional screenings are frequent, and few breast cancers are detected in women of this age group, a new study finds.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at 117,738 women younger than age 40 with no family history of breast cancer. Women between ages 35 and 39 underwent the highest number of mammograms, yet for every 10,000 women screened in this age group, 1,266 would be called back for additional tests and imaging and 16 cancers would be found. That number more than doubles to 43 cancers detected per 10,000 women ages 45-49, and continues to increase with age.

“The good news is that young women don’t get breast cancer at high rates,” explains Bonnie C. Yankaskas, lead author of the study, and part of the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.  Breast cancer risk increases with age and for women younger than 40, “you’re looking for a needle in a haystack,” Yankaskas says. She says there needs to be serious discussion about the use of mammography in young women who do not have symptoms, to prevent exposure to unnecessary radiation.

The American Cancer Society agrees, saying this study strongly supports their recommendation that screening mammography should begin at age 40 and not earlier. “We have been concerned that some have been encouraging that screening begin at younger and younger ages, when the science does not support it as beneficial,” Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the ACS wrote in a statement. He also notes “it is important to remember that this is a study of women who have no symptoms, and are not at high risk of breast cancer.”

Experts at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Radiology recommend annual mammograms for women starting at age 40, but also encourage women in their 30s to schedule mammograms if they have factors - like a strong family history of breast cancer, exposure to previous chest radiation or they are carriers of certain genes like the BRCA1 and BRCA2 - which put them at higher risk of developing the disease.

In November 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services task force issued recommendations suggesting women in their 40s did not need routine mammograms. The recommendation led to a firestorm of criticism from those concerned that physicians and insurance companies may stop offering mammograms to women in their 40s. For more see: I want my mammograms!. The USPSTF later updated their language to say screenings for women between ages 40-49 should not be automatic, but should be a decision made on an individualized basis between the patient and her physician.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


May 3rd, 2010
02:35 PM ET

No meds for kids? Here are some options

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

This weekend a division of Johnson & Johnson announced a recall of more than 40 medicines for children, including certain Tylenol and Benadryl varieties. Here is a full list of drugs that consumers should stop using. This is a voluntary recall because of concerns over quality standards, not adverse medical effects, the company said.

If they can't give their kids common medicines, how can parents help their kids feel better? Empowered Patient columnist Elizabeth Cohen found several good alternative treatments for children last year. For instance, probiotics work well for diarrhea, and fish oil and treat eczema, doctors say. Fish oil can also help asthma sufferers. You can read the full story here on cnn.com.

The Mayo Clinic has this overview of facts about cold medicines for children and other treatments you may want to consider. If your child has a cold, offer liquids, encourage coughing, and soothe sore a throat.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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