(HealthDay News) — Patients with low-risk prostate or breast cancer may have higher or lower odds of getting an unnecessary imaging based on geography, according to a new study published online March 12 in JAMA Oncology.

The study was led by Danil Makarov, MD, MHS, of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. His team examined the 2004–2007 medical records of 9,219 men with low-risk prostate cancer and 30,398 women with low-risk breast cancer. All were treated at one of 84 different hospital referral regions across the country.

Overuse of medical imaging occurred among 44.4% of the men and 41.8% of the women, the researchers found. However, there were notable differences between regions, with higher rates in the Northeast, and lower rates in the Northwest and Utah.

“These findings challenge us to move in a different direction than focusing exclusively on individual patient/doctor decision making,” Makarov, assistant professor of urology, population health, and health policy at NYU Langone, said in a center news release. Policy makers should target areas where imaging is overused and “promote incentives for appropriate care,” he said. “Such a focus would enhance efforts to cut excessive health spending.”

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