Tipping the balance of benefits and harms to favor screening mammography starting at age 40 years

Nicolien T. van Ravesteyn, Diana L Miglioretti, Natasha K. Stout, Sandra J. Lee, Clyde B. Schechter, Diana S M Buist, Hui Huang, Eveline A M Heijnsdijk, Amy Trentham-Dietz, Oguzhan Alagoz, Aimee M. Near, Karla Kerlikowske, Heidi D. Nelson, Jeanne S. Mandelblatt, Harry J. de Koning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Background: Timing of initiation of screening for breast cancer is controversial in the United States. Objective: To determine the threshold relative risk (RR) at which the harm-benefit ratio of screening women aged 40 to 49 years equals that of biennial screening for women aged 50 to 74 years. Design: Comparative modeling study. Data Sources: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program, Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, and medical literature. Target Population: A contemporary cohort of women eligible for routine screening. Time Horizon: Lifetime. Perspective: Societal. Intervention: Mammography screening starting at age 40 versus 50 years with different screening methods (film, digital) and screening intervals (annual, biennial). Outcome Measures: Benefits: life-years gained, breast cancer deaths averted; harms: false-positive mammography findings; harm-benefit ratios: false-positive findings/life-years gained, falsepositive findings/deaths averted. Results of Base-Case Analysis: Screening average-risk women aged 50 to 74 years biennially yields the same false-positive findings/life-years gained as biennial screening with digital mammography starting at age 40 years for women with a 2-fold increased risk above average (median threshold RR, 1.9 [range across models, 1.5 to 4.4]). The threshold RRs are higher for annual screening with digital mammography (median, 4.3 [range, 3.3 to 10]) and when false-positive findings/deaths averted is used as an outcome measure instead of false-positive findings/life-years gained. The harm-benefit ratio for film mammography is more favorable than for digital mammography because film has a lower false-positive rate. Results of Sensitivity Analysis: The threshold RRs changed slightly when a more comprehensive measure of harm was used and were relatively insensitive to lower adherence assumptions. Limitation: Risk was assumed to influence onset of disease without influencing screening performance. Conclusion: Women aged 40 to 49 years with a 2-fold increased risk have similar harm-benefit ratios for biennial screening mammography as average-risk women aged 50 to 74 years. Threshold RRs required for favorable harm-benefit ratios vary by screening method, interval, and outcome measure. Primary Funding Source: National Cancer Institute.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-618
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Tipping the balance of benefits and harms to favor screening mammography starting at age 40 years'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this