Harvard Health Letter

Which mammogram guidelines should I follow?

Ask the doctor

Q. I'm a 48-year-old woman, and I've never had a mammogram. Different guidelines seem to say different things. What do you recommend?

A. You're right, there are several different guidelines. Probably the two most often consulted by doctors are those of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). Recent changes by the ACS bring its recommendations nearer to those of USPSTF. They disagree slightly about you. ACS says you should have a mammogram (because you are over 45), but USPSTF says to begin at age 50. Both expert committees stress that these recommendations apply only to women who are not at extra risk of breast cancer (extra risk includes, for example, having a parent, sibling, or child who's had breast cancer). If a woman is at extra risk, she should start getting mammograms earlier.

-- Anthony Komaroff, MD
Editor in chief, Harvard Health Letter

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