New Advice: Skip Mammograms In 40's, Start At 50

A government task force is offering breast examination advice that runs contrary to the long-standing position of the American Cancer Society.

The task force says most women don't need a mammogram in their 40s and should get one every two years starting at 50. It also says breast self-exams do no good and women shouldn't be taught to do them.

The American Cancer Society recommends mammograms beginning in the 40's. But the government panel of doctors and scientists concluded that getting screened for breast cancer so early and so often leads to too many false alarms and unneeded biopsies without substantially improving women's odds of survival. Some experts say the reversal is expected to generate debate and confusion.

The new guidelines were issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Its stance influences coverage of screening tests by Medicare and many insurance companies. But an insurance industry group official says insurance coverage is not likely to change because of the new guidelines.

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