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Study shows breast screening is beneficial

31st March 2010

A major study of 80,000 women has concluded that breast cancer screening does more good than harm.

breastcancer

The study, by experts from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, also says that any over-treatment is justified by the number of lives saved.

A debate has been taking place among experts over the benefits of breast screening because while mammograms can spot dangerous tumours, they also detect lumps that are harmless resulting in some women having unnecessary surgery.

But the latest study looking at women from England and Sweden and published in the Journal of Medical Screening, says that screening saves the lives of two women for every one who may have unnecessary treatment.

The research estimated that 5.7 breast cancer deaths were prevented for every 1,000 women screened over a 20-year period in England.

The authors said: “The benefits in terms of numbers of deaths prevented are around double the harm in terms of over-diagnosis. Analysis shows a substantial and significant reduction in breast cancer deaths in association with mammographic screening.”

Cancer Research UK said it hoped the latest study would reassure women that screening was valuable while Breast Cancer Care said the findings show screening remains an “effective option for detecting breast cancers.”

In England, 45,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, with 12,000 dying from it. Woman aged 50-70 are invited for screening every three years and from 2012 that age range will be extended to cover the 47-73 bracket.

 

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