Open Letter: Urgent need to reduce the age to begin breast cancer screening in Canada

To All Federal Decision Makers,

Subject: Urgent Need to Reduce the Age to Begin Breast Cancer Screening

We, the undersigned women leaders from various sectors of Canadian society, are writing this open letter to draw your attention to a critical issue that demands immediate action: the age to begin breast cancer screening.

Breast cancer affects women across our nation and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian women, accounting for nearly one in four new cancer cases. Shockingly, it claims the lives of over 5,000 Canadian women each year. As women leaders, we are deeply concerned about the impact of this devastating disease on our communities and the urgent need for improved access to early detection.

Regular mammography screenings play a vital role in the early detection of breast cancer, significantly increasing the chances of successful treatment, better quality of life, and improved patient outcomes. However, the current Canadian guidelines recommend mammogram screenings to begin at the age of 50, missing a critical opportunity for early detection in younger women. Indeed, 17% of breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49.

We are encouraged by recent developments in the United States, where the draft revised recommendations now align with the growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of early screening, starting at 40. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises women to begin regular mammography screenings at the age of 40, recognizing the importance of early detection in saving lives.

We strongly urge all federal decision-makers, and particularly the Minister of Health, to take immediate action toward reducing the age to begin breast cancer screening to 40. By aligning our guidelines with the latest scientific research and international standards, we can save countless lives and alleviate the burden of this devastating disease on our society.

Consider the following key statistics:

• Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, with an estimated 26,800 new cases diagnosed in 2022 alone.1
• Early detection through regular mammography screenings can decrease breast cancer mortality rates by approximately 40%. 2
• Younger women are more likely to develop aggressive forms of breast cancer, emphasizing the urgency of early detection. 3
• By aligning our guidelines with the U.S. recommendation, an additional 1.4 million women aged 40-49 in Canada would have access to potentially lifesaving screenings. 4

As women leaders, we collectively implore you to champion this cause within your respective parties and advocate for the implementation of this vital change through legislation or policy amendments.

By working together, we can significantly impact breast cancer outcomes and save countless lives.


  1. Canadian Cancer Society. “Breast cancer statistics.”
  2. National Cancer Institute. “Early-Stage Breast Cancer Treatment.”
  3. American Cancer Society. “Breast Cancer in Young Women.”
  4. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. “Final Recommendation Statement: Breast Cancer Screening.”

See who signed the letter here.