Mammograms And PSA: A Brief History Of Cancer Screenings

The American Cancer Society now recommends against annual mammograms and prostate cancer screenings. Here's how the science around screening has shifted

Prostate cancer screenings (as well as mammograms) are now under fire. — (Alamy)
Oct 20, 2015 at 5:25 PM ET

The American Cancer Society on Tuesday announced that it would officially recommend against annual mammograms for women over the age of 54.

The announcement is the latest chapter in a long battle between researchers and physicians over cancer screenings. On one hand, mammograms (for detecting breast cancer) and PSA tests (for prostate cancer) are some of the best tools out there for detecting cancer early, before it turns deadly. On the other hand, screening an entire population is expensive and recent studies suggest that broad screenings may not pay off in the long run.

Here’s a brief history of science’s contentious relationship with early cancer detection:

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the American Cancer society “officially recommend against annual mammograms for women under the age of 54.” We corrected that to say the ACS “officially recommend against annual mammograms for women over the age of 54.” In addition, it was the US Preventive Services Task Force, not the ACS, that proposes biennial mammograms for most women in 2009.