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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 23:54 GMT
Breast screen success 'will rise'
Breast screening
Breast screening is proving to be a success
Breast screening may soon be saving the lives of well over a thousand women each year in the UK, research shows.

The study suggests that by 2004 the screening programme will reduce deaths from breast cancer by nearly 20% in the 55-64 age group.

The research, jointly funded by the Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, focused on East Anglia.

Every week the screening programme is saving lives from breast cancer up and down the country

Dr Stephen Duffy, Imperial Cancer Research Fund
But the researchers believe the findings could apply nationwide.

Dr Stephen Duffy, of Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, said: "This is excellent news for women all over the UK; it means that every week the screening programme is saving lives from breast cancer up and down the country.

"The news may be even better than the report suggests.

"These results do not include screening during the last five years, when improvements in screening practice and technology may have saved even more lives."

Professor Nick Day, of the University of Cambridge Institute of Public Health, said: "This is the first study to show that the national breast screening programme could potentially save thousands of lives by the year 2004.

"It is an important finding because in the past there have been doubts about whether the screening programme could work on a nationwide basis.

"Our study shows it can - providing the screening is of a high enough standard."

Staggered programme

East Anglia staggered the introduction of the screening programme during the early 1990s.

This meant that two groups of women could be compared - those who were diagnosed with breast cancer before they received an invitation to screening and those diagnosed after invitation, once the screening programme was running.

Trials suggest that a reduction in deaths by about 25% is achievable

Dr Jenny McCann
Rather than waiting to count actual deaths, which can take years, the scientists used accurate descriptions of the cancers at the time of diagnosis to predict the outcome for each woman in both groups.

This led to the prediction that breast screening would result in a drop of almost 20% in breast cancer deaths in women aged 55-64.

'Overwhelming evidence

Researcher Dr Jenny McCann said: "The point of screening is to detect cancers when they're smaller, less likely to have spread and therefore easier to treat.

"There is overwhelming evidence in favour of breast cancer screening for women over 50, and trials suggest that a reduction in deaths by about 25% is achievable."

The authors conclude that although their prediction falls short of the 25% target, it shows that such a figure is within reach.

The research is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

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29 Sep 00 | Health
Tackling breast cancer
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