For those who just turned 50, UPDATE

all those mammograms you may have had look like a waste of time.  And for all of us who picked up the message that if you didn’t get a yearly mammogram after 50, then you were asking for it?  Forget that too.  Now it is every other year.  In the US, of course.

(I apologize for the irritated tone on this important topic, but it  is important too that we have a pretty clear example of adamant advice that was based on less than good data and understanding.)

Actually, the new recommendations reflect the fact that the contribution of regular mammograms  to women’s health and longevity looks pretty problematic in a number of ways.  There has been over-treatment, apparently (see update).  So what one needs to do is to forget the urgency and have a heart to heart with one’s gynecologist.  Though just how tailored the advice a doctor gives to her clients in a large practice is will be another  question to ask.   And without wanting to complain from ignorance, I don’t know why we should think in advice that the parameters for a decision are so complex that we have to seek expert opinion, as opposed to perhaps some agreement.  Of course, the advice  is not going just  to PhDs, but women are not bad at assessing their degree  of understanding.

This all comes from a very influential committee;  here is the advice:

Women in their 40s should not get routine mammograms for early detection of breast cancer, according to updated guidelines set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

“All we are saying is, at age 40, a woman should make an appointment with her doctor and have a conversation about the benefits and harms of having a mammography now versus waiting to age 50,” said Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chair of the task force.

Before having a mammogram, women ages 40 to 49 should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of the test, and then decide if they want to be screened, according to the task force.

For women ages 50 to 74, it recommends routine mammography screenings every two years. Risks and benefits for women age 75 and above are unknown, it said.

The group’s previous recommendation was for routine screenings every year or two for women age 40 and older.

The task force is composed of 16 health care experts, none of whom are oncologists. The group reviews medical data and bases recommendations on effectiveness and risks involved.

Since this group advises doctors and insurance companies, it may well affect what one can claim for.

Of course, the evidence is statistical and it may be the case that the mammogram was essential in saving some young peoples’ lives.  I know the cliches one is suppose to say here about exceptions not making good policy, but still…

Update:  From NPR, on 11/16:   The American Cancer  Society still recommends yearly mammograms after 40.  The descriptions of over  treatment  varied, with one person at one point talking about women unnecessarily receiving chemotherapy and radiation.  The most frequent worry expressed was, however, that there are a large number of  false positives that resulting in much unnecessary anxiety.  Unnecessary anxiety, as one person said, hardly seems a reason to decide for women what we need.

Do see SallyH’s comment!

Plastics make your boys act girly!

As if the environmental effects weren’t bad enough, new “safety” worries are emerging about plastic products. If you’ve got the around the house, your boys might not want to play with guns! Oh, the horror!!!!!!! (Thanks, AP!)

Dr Shanna Swan and her team tested urine samples from mothers over midway through pregnancy for traces of phthalates.
The women, who gave birth to 74 boys and 71 girls, were followed up when their children were aged four to seven and asked about the toys the youngsters played with and the games they enjoyed. They found that two phthalates DEHP and DBP can affect play behaviour.
Boys exposed to high levels of these in the womb were less likely than other boys to play with cars, trains and guns or engage in “rougher” games like playfighting. Elizabeth Salter-Green, director of the chemicals campaign group CHEM Trust, said the results were worrying.

Girls need to be realistic about careers and motherhood

Teenage girls need to be taught a heavy dose of realism – that it may not be possible to be a perfect mother and a career woman, the president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) will say next week…”Women can feel very guilty, whatever path they choose. It is as if they have somehow compromised their principles. What we can do as teachers is prepare them to have aspirations, but not aim for perfection. We can help them recognise that life is about balance.”

As reader HA notes, boys can carry on as normal. Now, it IS true that the author of these claims is in charge of a girls’ school association. But you might think another thing one might want to teach girls is how to negotiate more equal parenting with their partners. And I’m willing to bet the Boys’ Schools Association isn’t issuing any comments about boys needing to be taught about work-life balance. (I would dearly love to lose this bet!)

For more, see here.