Changes in the use of screening mammography: evidence from the 1987 and 1990 National Health Interview Surveys

Am J Public Health. 1994 Jan;84(1):62-7. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.1.62.


Objectives: Mammography rates reported by women in the National Health Interview Surveys of 1990 and 1987 are examined. Why this screening modality is not more frequently used is explored.

Methods: Data from the 1987 and 1990 National Health Interview Surveys, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, are cross-tabulated and compared.

Results: In 1987, approximately 17% of women over 40 years of age reported having had a screening mammogram in the previous year. In 1990, the rate doubled. Race declined in importance; income and education remained strong, positive predictors of screening.

Conclusions: Despite this dramatic increase, two thirds of women are not having screening mammograms. Use was not higher primarily because women did not realize that screening mammography tests for breast cancer in asymptomatic women. Primary care physicians are the main source of health education for screening mammography. The data suggest that public health programs to promote screening mammography should especially target primary care physicians and women with low incomes and education. Likewise, health care providers should ensure that their patients are referred to facilities that deliver high-quality mammography at low cost to make the procedure more accessible.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States