More Canadian women aged 50-69 than ever were getting mammograms by 2008, according to a new study released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.

The national study, conducted in 2008, found that 72.5 per cent of women aged 50-69 reported having had a mammogram in the previous two years.

That testing rate was a big jump from 1990, when national figures were first gathered and just 40.5 per cent of women reported undergoing mammogram testing in the two years prior.

With the advent of systematic breast-cancer screening in 1988, mammogram testing rates rose dramatically through the 1990s, Statistics Canada reported, such that testing rates peaked by 2000-2001 and then stabilized.

Evidence suggests mammography helps reduce mortality from breast cancer, Statistics Canada noted.

Before 2000-2001, mammogram testing rates differed markedly among the provinces, but the agency said rates across Canada have now become "more similar."

Still, while testing rates were up overall in the population, Statistics Canada noted that mammography was "less common at lower levels of income and education and among immigrants, smokers and those without a regular doctor."

"Despite widespread availability of screening programs, women in certain segments of the population are not receiving regular mammograms," the report's authors write.

Testing declines in lowest income bracket

The report notes that between 2005 and 2008, mammography declined among women with the lowest 20 per cent of incomes in Canada.

In 2005, 67 per cent of women in that category reported having a mammogram in the previous two years, but by 2008 that number declined to 61 per cent, the report says.

Among daily smokers, meanwhile, about 40 per cent reported not having had a mammogram in the two years before 2008.

The most common reason cited by those surveyed in 2008 who hadn't undergone testing in the last two years was that they didn't think it was necessary, with 37 per cent saying as much. 

The study was based on information gathered from 11,441 female respondents aged 50-69 that was then statistically weighted to represent the 3.8 million women nationally in that age range.

The results tabulate mammograms that were performed for screening and for diagnostic purposes.