Breast cancer screening cuts mortality by half

8 Jan 2008
Breast cancer screening in East Anglia, UK, has reduced deaths from the disease by 48 per cent, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.

This is one of the first of a series of studies assessing the impact of the National screening programme. It shows the National Screening Programme in the area is at least consistent to previous estimates found at trials conducted before the full programme was put into place in 1989.

Professor Stephen Duffy, lead researcher and Cancer Research UK’s professor of cancer screening, said: “The results of our study showed that the NHS breast cancer screening programme has been even more effective at saving lives than we predicted. This is the strongest evidence yet that screening programmes like this save lives.

“We hope to collect data from other regions in the future, allowing us to compare programmes across the UK, bringing the best practices to areas that aren’t performing as well.”

Julietta Patnick, Director, NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said: “The New Year marks the 20th anniversary of the introduction of breast screening in England. Huge strides have been made over the past two decades and today, more women than ever before are surviving breast cancer, many of whom have benefited from early detection through routine breast screening.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “Survival rates for breast cancer have been improving for more than 20 years – eight out of ten patients now survive more than five years. This is partly due to our very effective screening programme. Here is more proof that screening works – our breast, cervical and now also bowel cancer screening programmes are certainly effective.”

“This study is proof that screening really does save lives. The Government has committed to extending the screening programme in England by 2012 so that more women benefit. Women aged 47 to 73 will be invited so that every woman will have their first screening before the age of 50. Cancer Research UK is working to get even more people into screening programmes and to encourage everyone invited to participate – support for our Screening Matters campaign will help do this.”