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Monday, October 26, 1998 Published at 16:18 GMT


Breast cancer death rates plummet

The number of women dying from breast cancer is falling rapidly

The number of women who survive breast cancer has doubled in the last five years due to better treatment and research, says the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC).

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show 13,000 women died from breast cancer each year between 1988 and 1992 in England and Wales.

This compares with 12,500 deaths a year between 1993 and 1998.

The CRC says mortality rates have been falling since the 1980s, but, over the last five years, more and more women have been surviving cancer.

In 1988, 40 women per 100,000 of the population died from breast cancer. In 1992, the figure was 38 and in 1997 it was 34.

Breast screening

Gordon McVie, director general of the CRC, which spends £7m a year on breast cancer research and campaigns, said: "These figures show we really are starting to tackle the problem now which is wonderful news."

He said the decline was "a tribute" to the development of new treatments for the disease.

"Maybe we are beginning to see the first effects of the NHS screening programme," he said.

The programme began in 1988, but did not go nationwide until 1994.

It led to a big increase in the number of cases being picked up with figures for the incidence of breast cancer peaking around 1992. They have been falling ever since.

It is estimated that one in 11 women will develop breast cancer at some time during her life.

Geri Spice

The CRC says high-profile celebrity campaigns by people like former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, as well as the pink ribbon breast cancer awareness campaign, have helped remove the stigma from the disease.

[ image: High-profile campaigns by celebrities like Geri Halliwell have raised awareness]
High-profile campaigns by celebrities like Geri Halliwell have raised awareness
"Women are now more aware of the warning signs for the disease and more likely to attend screening. They are also helping to direct money to where it is most needed - research and treatment," said Gordon McVie.

He added that men also appeared to be more sensitive to the distress women feel when they discover they have the disease, although he said there was still "a long way to go" on this front.

The announcement of the mortality figures comes at the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

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