Document Type


Original Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Cancer Medicine





DOI of Original Publication



Originally published at

Date of Submission

December 2015


Although regular screening mammography has been suggested to be associated with improvements in the relative survival of breast cancer in recent years, the appropriate age to start screening mammography remains controversial. In November 2009, the United States Preventive Service Task Force published updated guidelines for breast cancer, which no longer support routine screening mammography for women aged 40–49 years, but instead, defer the choice of screening in that age group to the patient and physician. The age to begin screening differs between guidelines, including those from the Task Force, the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization. It remains unclear how this discrepancy impacts patient survival, especially among certain subpopulations. Although the biological characteristics of breast cancer and peak age of incidence differ among different ethnic populations, there have been few reports that evaluate the starting age for screening mammography based on ethnicity. Here, we discuss the benefits and harm of screening mammography in the fifth decade, and re-evaluate the starting age for screening mammography taking ethnicity into account, focusing on the Asian population. Breast cancer incidence peaked in the fifth decade in Asian women, which has been thought to be due to a combination of biological and environmental factors. Previous reports suggest that Asian women in their 40s may receive more benefit and less harm from screening mammography than the age-matched non-Asian US population. Therefore, starting screening mammography at age 40 may be beneficial for women of Asian ethnicity in well-resourced countries, such as Japanese women who reside in Japan.


Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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