Frequently Asked Questions
In this draft recommendation statement, the Task Force recommends that all women get screened for breast cancer every other year starting at age 40 to reduce their risk of dying from this disease. This is a B grade.
We are also urgently calling for more research that will allow us to build on our existing recommendations and help all women live longer and healthier lives. Specifically, we need to know how best to address the health disparities across screening and treatment experienced by Black, Hispanic, Latina, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Alaska Native women.
We also need studies showing how additional screening with breast ultrasound or MRI might help women with dense breasts and evidence on the benefits and harms of screening in older women. These are I statements.
While we have consistently recognized the life-saving value of mammography, the science has become even more clear about when it is beneficial. Previously, we recommended that women in their 40s make an individual decision about when to start screening, taking into account their health history, preferences, and how they value the different potential benefits and harms.
The Task Force now recommends that all women start getting screened for breast cancer every other year starting at age 40. Essentially, this change—from a C grade to a B grade for women in their 40s—means that the science now shows greater benefit of screening.
New and more inclusive science about breast cancer in people younger than 50 has enabled us to expand our prior recommendation and encourage all women to get screened in their 40s. We have long known that screening for breast cancer saves lives, and the science now supports all women getting screened, every other year, starting at age 40.
The Task Force’s recommendation applies to cisgender women and other people assigned female at birth who are 40 years and older and at average risk of breast cancer. People with a family history of breast cancer, and people who have other risk factors such as having dense breasts, are included.
The recommendation does not apply to people who have a personal history of breast cancer, who are at very high risk of breast cancer due to certain genetic markers or a history of high-dose radiation therapy to their chest at a young age, or who have had a lesion on previous biopsies.
These women should consult their healthcare professional for individualized guidance about screening.
Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than White women and too often get aggressive cancers at young ages. Ensuring Black women start screening at 40 is an important first step, yet it is not enough to improve these inequities. It’s important that healthcare professionals involve patients in a conversation on how best to support them to ensure equitable follow-up after screening and timely and effective treatment of breast cancer.
We are urgently calling for more evidence to better understand whether Black women could potentially be helped by different screening strategies.
We reviewed the strongest available science on mammography to look specifically at the benefits and harms of various screening strategies, including screening every year or every other year. While there is no trial data that compares annual vs biennial screening, the Task Force looked at modeling studies, which help us understand and predict outcomes over time and across populations. After a thorough review, the latest science continues to show that when you balance lives saved against harms like unnecessary follow-up and treatment, women benefit more when screening is done every other year.
The Task Force found that there is not enough evidence to make a recommendation for or against screening in women ages 75 and older, so we issued an I statement and are calling for more research on this important topic. In the absence of evidence, these women should decide together with their clinicians what is best for their individual health needs, based on their preferences, values, and health history. In the future, we hope that more studies on the effectiveness of screening older women are conducted and published, so we can make a more definitive recommendation for these women.
Not at this time. Right now, insurance companies are legally required to fully cover mammograms every year for women who want them, so many women are able to access free annual mammograms.
It is important to note that our recommendation is based solely on the science of what works to prevent breast cancer and it is not a recommendation for or against insurance coverage. Coverage decisions involve considerations beyond the evidence about clinical benefit, and in the end, these decisions are the responsibility of payors, regulators, and legislators.
For each topic we review, the Task Force follows a specific process that includes posting materials for review and comment by the public. This draft recommendation is available for public comment for 4 weeks, from May 9 to June 5, 2023. We will carefully consider all comments we receive as we develop the final recommendation for this topic. We use this rigorous, multistep process to develop all of our recommendations and encourage everyone to submit public comments that can help further inform our guidance.
Anyone can submit comments on the draft recommendation by visiting the Public Comments and Nominations section of the Task Force website. After reviewing the draft recommendation, the comment process includes responding to specific questions, as well as open text fields where people can provide feedback. Comments must be received by June 5, 2023. After that date, the draft recommendation statement will be closed for comment, and we will review and consider the comments we received.
All commenters will receive acknowledgment that their comments have been transmitted, but the Task Force does not provide responses to individual comments. The final recommendation will include a summary of the comments we received and the actions we have taken in response.
We are urgently calling for more research that will allow us to build on our existing recommendation and help all women live longer and healthier lives. Importantly, we need to know how best to address the health disparities across screening and treatment experienced by so many women. We also need studies showing whether additional screening with breast ultrasound or MRI might help women with dense breasts and evidence on the benefits and harms of screening in women 75 and older.