Breast cancer deaths almost halved after screening
Release date: 24 April 2003
A CANCER Research UK report
produces the strongest evidence yet that organised breast screening
programmes save lives.
The study, published in
this week's Lancet*, shows breast cancer deaths dropped by almost half
after an organised screening programme was introduced. The report also
gives definitive evidence, for the first time, that screening younger
women (40-49) significantly reduces mortality. Scientists studied more
than 200,000 Swedish women aged between 20 and 69. They compared the
numbers of women who died from breast cancer in the pre-screening period
with those who died after screening was introduced.**
In the 40-69 age group
breast cancer mortality was reduced by 44 per cent in those women who
attended for screening. For women who were not screened during the second
period the death rate reduction was just 16 per cent.
Among women aged between
40-49 the reduction in mortality was 48 per cent in those who were
screened against 19 per cent among those who were not.
Stephen Duffy, Cancer
Research UK's Professor of Cancer Screening, says: "This produces
very strong evidence that screening women for breast cancer, along with
other improvements in breast cancer care, can almost halve the number of
women who might otherwise die from the disease.
"While mammography is
largely accepted by the scientific and medical community as a benefit to
women, there are still some who express doubts as to its value. This study
goes a long way towards silencing the dissenting voices.
"It also suggests
there is a good case for offering younger women the chance to be screened
if they have any additional risk of getting breast cancer such as a strong
family history of the disease."
"Sweden gives us a
unique opportunity to study the results of breast cancer screening over 20
years, as the NHS screening programme was only gradually introduced
between 1989 and 1993," adds Prof Duffy.
Julietta Patnick, National
Coordinator, NHS Breast Screening Programme, says: "This study will
help reassure the 1.5 million women who are invited for screening in
England, that the NHS Breast Screening Programme is an effective part of
this country's efforts in reducing the death toll from breast cancer.
"The breast screening
programme has always been based on sound evidence and it has research
programmes to examine the appropriateness of screening women under 50 and
whether or not we need to alter the current screening interval."
Cancer Research UK's Sir
Paul Nurse, says: "We have always believed in the value of the
National Screening Programme. Now we have even more powerful evidence that
screening saves lives. This is the kind of research that has a direct
impact on the health and well-being of women and should reinforce the
Government's policy in urging women to take up their invitations to breast