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, false-positive 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.

dx.doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-156-9-201205010-00002, hdl.handle.net/1765/81429
Annals of Internal Medicine
Department of Public Health

van Ravesteyn, N.T, Miglioretti, D.L, Stout, N.K, Lee, S.J, Schechter, C.B, Buist, D.S.M, … de Koning, H.J. (2012). Tipping the balance of benefits and harms to favor screening mammography starting at age 40 years. Annals of Internal Medicine, 156(9), 609–618. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-156-9-201205010-00002