The purpose of this study was to assess mammography diffusion in a population offered an organized breast cancer screening program, using intervals of 1-3 years, and to evaluate its effect on the late-stage cancer (tumors > or = 3 cm2) rates compared to rates in the surrounding community. We measured "ever-use" of mammography (1986-1992) among women enrollees of a consumer-controlled health care organization (n > or = 60,000/year; ages > or = 40), Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound (GHC). Among these same women and the surrounding community (n = > or = 745,000/year), we measured late-stage cancer rates. Using unconditional logistic regression, we compared annual rates of ever-use among GHC women ages 40-49 and > or = 50 (1986-1992) and late-stage breast cancer (1983/84-1991/92) among all women. Among all GHC women ages 40 to 49, and 50 years of age and older, 67.4 and 82.8%, respectively, ever-used mammography by 1992. By 1992, approximately one-third of the mammograms among GHC women occurred in each of the three previous years. The rate of late-stage tumors declined significantly in the GHC and non-GHC populations among women 50 years of age and older (P < 0.001) but not among women ages 40 to 49. In conclusion, implementing a system of automated reminders was not sufficient to maximize mammography use in a population. Reductions in late-stage disease occurred among women ages > or = 50, even when regular" was not synonymous with "annual."

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