updated 1/23/2008 6:13:25 PM ET 2008-01-23T23:13:25

Having to pay as little as $10 of a mammogram’s cost leads many older women to skip the breast cancer exam, a large study of Medicare users finds.

Screening rates were more than 8 percent lower among women required to pay a copayment or percentage of the cost compared to those with full coverage, according to a study led by Dr. Amal Trivedi at Brown University. Results were published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study involved about 367,000 women ages 65 to 69 with Medicare managed health plans from 2001 to 2004. The number of women covered by plans requiring copays for mammograms rose, from less than 1 percent to more than 11 percent, during that time.

The authors urge Medicare to consider dropping copayments for mammograms, which have proven health benefits because they help find cancers at earlier stages, when they are most treatable.

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