Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Mammograms Benefit Younger Women

Reduce Risk of More Aggressive Breast Cancer


In their study, they followed 247 premenopausal women who were diagnosed with breast cancer during the course of the six-year trial. Half had had at least one mammogram within two years before the study began, while the others had no screenings.

About 40% of the screened women were later found to have later-stage tumors, compared with 52% of the unscreened women. After accounting for other factors that affect breast cancer risk, such as family history or estrogen use, the researchers determined that women in their 40s who get regular mammograms are 44% less likely to develop an aggressive breast cancer. This benefit would likely translate into decreased deaths from breast cancer among women in their 40s, say the researchers.

Although most health agencies recommend mammograms annually or every two years starting at age 40, in practice, many physicians seem to stress their importance after age 50, when breast cancer is even more common. As a result, about 70% of women in their 40s get mammograms, says Byers. Barriers -- both from the patient and the doctor perspective -- include cost, convenience, and denial, he says. In addition, there is worry about false positive tests -- when a mammogram is thought to indicate breast cancer at first but is later found to be normal with further testing.

Another reason: Most previous studies have shown little or no benefit from screenings in pre-menopausal women. But that's because they looked at long-term survival after breast cancer as opposed to the stage at which breast cancer is diagnosed. Even though it makes sense that diagnosing breast cancer earlier would improve survival, research at this point has been unable to establish this for women in their 40s.

"But when you look at survival as the end point, rather than actual breast cancer events, you're really not getting the accurate picture on the benefits of mammogram for this age group," says Ruth Heimann, MD, PhD, a cancer researcher at the University of Chicago who was not involved in this study. "What happens is that after age 50, [heart] disease becomes the leading cause of death in women and a majority of women with early-stage breast cancer ultimately die from heart disease -- and not from the breast cancer itself.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow