Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More


Military and Veterans Discount


AARP’s Picture Your Retirement Sweepstakes

Enter the $50K Picture Your Retirement Sweepstakes. Ends 8/31/15. No purchase necessary. Enter for Official Rules.


AARP Games - Play Now!


Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.


Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.



Heart Disease


Most Popular


What Health Screenings Do You Really Need If You Are Over Age 50?

8 key tests the experts recommend

Breast cancer: mammogram

The test: a mammogram, which is a specialized x-ray of the breast.

The guidelines: The task force calls for women between ages 50 and 74 to get a mammogram every two years, saying there's not enough evidence to support a recommendation for or against the test later in life. But the American Cancer Society advises annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing as long as a woman is in good health.

What to consider: The prevention task force, in making its recommendations, looked at clinical-trial data showing a 15 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths as a result of mammography screening among women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. It weighed this benefit against potential harms, including the stress of a false positive leading to further testing, but also the possibility of "overdiagnosis"—the identification and, presumably, treatment of cancers that would not have become a problem during the woman's lifetime. Estimates of overdiagnosis vary widely. One recent analysis by Danish researchers claimed that as many as a third of breast cancers identified through screening programs would not have caused harm; the task force analysis reported rates of between 1 and 10 percent.

For women in their 40s, when breast cancer is less common and false positives more likely due to dense breasts, the task force concluded the drawbacks of mammography outweighed the benefits—a highly controversial 2009 decision.

For women age 75 and older, the issue is partly a simple lack of data to support a benefit from screening, says Mara Schonberg, M.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, whose research focuses on decisions about mammography among older women. In addition, as life expectancy wanes, harms may outweigh the benefits of early detection and treatment of cancers that may be slow-growing.

Next: Colonoscopy. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points