The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that the percentage of women who get regular mammography screenings declined by almost two percent between 2000 and 2005. The decrease from 76.4 percent to 74.6 percent means that over one million women annually are no longer getting screened. The decline reverses a trend from the 1990s, when the rate of mammography screenings dramatically increased. It is widely held in the public health community that women age 40 and older should get mammography screenings every one to two years, as regular mammograms can catch breast cancer early, increase treatment options, and reduce mortality rates from the disease.
Researchers say the reason for the decline is unclear, but they suggest that it may have to do with a shortage of screening staff and facilities as the median age of the population increases, the Washington Post reports. The number of women age 40 and older has increased by more than 24 million between 1990 and 2000.
The CDC calculates that mammography can reduce breast cancer mortality by about 20 percent in women aged 40-49 and by 20-35 percent in women aged 50-69. The researchers are concerned that the decrease of regular screenings can lead to increased mortality from the disease. In reaction to the findings, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society warns, “If we don’t pay attention now, we run the risk of seeing some of the gains we’ve made reversed,” the AP reports.
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