(HealthDay News) — The American Cancer Society is delaying the recommended age when a woman should start receiving annual mammograms, based on new research that shows the average risk for breast cancer increases near menopause. The new guidelines are published in the October 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Women with average risk should receive annual mammograms between the ages of 45–54, then transition to screening every two years for as long as they remain healthy, according to the new breast cancer screening guidelines. The guidelines are more conservative than the American Cancer Society’s previous approach, which recommended yearly mammograms starting at 40 and continuing as long as a woman is in good health.

The cancer society shifted its guidelines, in part, because it started looking at breast cancer risk in five-year increments, rather than considering women in their 40s vs. women in their 50s or 60s, said lead author Kevin Oeffinger, MD. Oeffinger is chairman of the American Cancer Society breast cancer guideline panel and a family physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“We found that women who are 45–49 are very similar to women 50–54 with respect to the burden of cancer, the risk of dying from cancer and the reduction in mortality from mammography,” Oeffinger told HealthDay. “That helped us in our thought process. We felt the evidence is very clear.”

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