MONDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- The dramatic decline in
women's use of hormone therapy mid-decade also appears linked to a
decline in mammograms, new research suggests.
"We found that women in the age group 50 to 64 reduced their hormone therapy use from 41 percent down to 16 percent between 2000 and 2005," said study lead author Nancy Breen, an economist with the U.S. National Cancer Institute. "At the same time, that age group dropped their mammogram use from 78 percent to 73 percent."
"And we found those two drops were associated," she added.
Breen speculates that women are not going for mammograms as
often because they aren't returning to their doctors for hormone
The study was published online Monday in the journal
The use of hormone therapy dropped radically after a report from
the Women's Health Initiative, published in 2002, showed hormone
therapy use was linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
In 2005, mammography rates took a first-ever decline according
to U.S. data.
So Breen and her colleagues set out to see whether there might
be a link. Using the National Health Interview Survey, the largest
population-based national sample on mammography use, they looked at
data on 7,125 women interviewed in 2000 and 7,387 women interviewed
in 2005. All were 50 years of age or older.
They found that those between the ages of 50 and 64 were more
likely to report a recent mammogram if they were still taking
hormone therapy or had seen their doctor in the past 12 months.
Levels of insurance and education were other variables that played
The researchers noted, however, that the decline in hormone
therapy did not explain the mammography decline for women 65 and
If the authors' speculation is correct -- that women are
forgoing mammograms because they are not seeing their doctor about
hormone use -- ''health care providers should find other ways to
contact these women to encourage screening," said Dr. Daniel B.
Kopans, a member of the Breast Imaging Commission for the American
College of Radiology.
Kopans, a radiology professor at Harvard Medical School and
senior radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, added,
"Mammography screening is not perfect. It does not find all cancers
and does not find all cancers early enough to result in a cure. But
the death rate from breast cancer, unchanged for 50 years prior to
the onset of screening, has now decreased by over 30 percent,
primarily due to screening."
Some health-care plans have reminder systems in place, letting
women know when it's time for their mammogram. The American College
of Radiology offers consumers a reminder system, as well.
Women could come up with their own ways to remember, Kopans
said. "My sister and her girlfriend go every year at the same time,
and we all go to dinner afterwards," he added.
A free mammogram reminder is available through the
College of Radiology.
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