(NEWSnet/AP) – Routine mammograms to screen for breast cancer should start at a younger age, with screenings every other year from age 40 to 74, an influential U.S. task force says.

While women could choose to start breast cancer screening at a younger age, the previous task force recommendation was to get the exams every two years from age 50 through 74.

The announcement Tuesday from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force makes official a draft recommendation announced last year. The recommendations were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“It’s a win that they are now recognizing the benefits of screening women in their 40s,” said Dr. Therese Bevers of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She was not involved in the guidance.

Other medical groups, including the American College of Radiology and the American Cancer Society, suggest mammograms every year, which may cause confusion, Bevers said, but “now the starting age will align with what many other organizations are saying.”

Breast cancer death rates have fallen as treatment continues to improve. But breast cancer is still the second-most common cause of cancer death for U.S. women. About 240,000 cases are diagnosed annually and nearly 43,000 women die from breast cancer.

The nudge toward earlier screening is meant to address two vexing issues: the increasing incidence of breast cancer among women in their 40s — it’s risen 2% annually since 2015 — and the higher breast cancer death rate among Black women compared to white women, said task force vice chair Dr. John Wong of Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

“Sadly, we know all too well that Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women,” Wong said. Modeling studies predict that earlier screening may help all women, and have “even more benefit for women who are Black,” he said.

Congress already passed legislation requiring insurers to pay for mammograms for women 40 and older without copays or deductibles. In addition, the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover task force recommendations with an “A” or “B” letter grade. The mammography recommendation has a “B” grade, meaning it has moderate net benefit.

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