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Breast screening 'does work'

9th January 2008

A study of a breast cancer screening programme has suggested it may have reduced the number of deaths from the disease by at least 30%.

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The team of experts compared the screening histories of women from the programme in East Anglia who had died of the disease with women who had not.

The findings from what is the first study to try to evaluate the impact of the national screening scheme that was launched in 1989, were published in the British Journal of Cancer and appear positive.

The team was led by Cancer Research UK and included researchers from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and the University of Cambridge.

After making adjustments, the team calculated that women who attended screening had at least a 30% reduction in breast cancer mortality. That figure is consistent with randomised trials.

Professor Stephen Duffy, Cancer Research UK’s specialist in cancer screening, said: “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 practice to areas that aren’t performing as well.?

However, Professor Michael Baum, who has opposed the NHS breast screening programme in the past, said it was treatment and not the screening which had reduced mortality.

Breast Cancer Care said it was important that women remained breast aware throughout their lives for any changes that occur, as well as accepting invitations to regular breast screening.

 

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