updated 7/8/2004 12:06:07 PM ET 2004-07-08T16:06:07

At age 32, Samantha Saunders thought she was too young to worry about breast cancer.

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But a mammogram saved her life in 2000, just six months after her younger sister was diagnosed with the disease.

On Wednesday, Saunders thanked lawmakers and Gov. James E. McGreevey for a new law that will require insurance companies to pay for mammograms for women under 40 who have a family history of the disease.

“When I mentioned to family and friends that I would be attending this event, the response was the same, ’it’s about time and thanks’,” said Saunders, who is now 36 and cancer-free.

Highest mortality rates
Joined by breast cancer survivors and medical advocates, McGreevey signed the bill into law at Centra State Medical Center.

New Jersey has the highest mortality rates for breast cancer in the country — 31.3 percent, compared with 27.7 percent nationwide, according to government statistics.

The American Cancer Society estimates that roughly 7,400 new cases will be diagnosed statewide this year.

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