NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 15, 2007

After years of going to their doctors in rising numbers to get annual mammograms, American women have begun skipping the procedure.  The small, but significant decline -- reported yesterday by researchers from the National Cancer Institute -- is disturbing because it means that more women will fail to get the early detection that increases their chances of survival, says the New York Times.

  • Between 1987 and 2000 the percentage of women in the United States who reported that they had had a mammogram in the previous two years soared remarkably from 39 percent to 70 percent, outpacing the government's own health goals.
  • The new study, published in the online edition of the journal Cancer, estimates that the rate dropped to 66 percent in 2005.
  • Most astonishing, some of the largest declines were among women who have traditionally used mammography at high rates, including those with higher incomes and those ages 50 to 64, the group most likely to benefit.

Nobody is quite sure why.  But the researchers and other analysts cite numerous possibilities -- an increase in the number of women without health insurance, higher co-payments for office visits, fewer places to get a mammogram, less fear of breast cancer and controversy over how well mammograms work at staving off cancer deaths.

Source: Editorial, "Mammograms in Decline," New York Times, May 15, 2007; based upon: Nancy Breen et al., "Reported Drop in Mammography: Is This Cause for Concern," CANCER; May 14, 2007.

For text: 


Browse more articles on Health Issues