SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – New breast cancer prevention guidelines are encouraging women to begin breast-cancer screenings at a younger age than previously recommended.

According to new guidelines from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, women should get their yearly mammograms starting at age 40 every year rather than age 50. Earlier detection can save lives but for those with denser breasts, mammograms can be difficult to interpret.

The National Cancer Institute says that dense breast tissue appears as white areas in a mammogram, while fatty tissue appears as dark areas. This means the cancer can be missed.

22News spoke with a local cancer specialist who said determining personal risk factor, which includes breast density, is the first step in addressing this concern.

“In terms of breast density, half of all women have dense breasts. Breast density is related to estrogen exposure, and family history. So again, that’s where risk-assessment comes into play,” said Dr. Grace Makari-Judson of the Baystate Cancer Center.

Women with dense breasts do have a higher risk of breast cancer than women with fatty breasts and while there are not clear recommendations from the Preventative Services Task Force on additional imaging tests like ultrasounds or MRI’s for those with dense breasts, your doctor can provide options based off of your risk assessment.

Typically those who have a family history of breast cancer are eligible for those additional screenings.