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Study shows long-term benefits of breast screening

Results from the longest running breast screening trial show that screening with mammography reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer.

The study*, by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, shows that the number of deaths that are prevented goes up year after year.

The results are new evidence of the long-term benefits of regular breast screening.

Senior author, Professor Stephen Duffy explained: "Breast cancer can take many years to develop so to tell if screening is effective, we need to see how women fair in the long-term.

"In this study, we've continued to monitor women for nearly three decades and we've found that the longer we look, the more lives are saved."

The study included over 130,000 women and was the first to show that screening, with mammography only, led to fewer deaths from breast cancer. It compared a group of women who were invited for regular mammograms with a group who were not. The women have now been followed up for 29 years to see how many died of the disease.

The results showed that 30 per cent fewer women in the screening group died of breast cancer and that this effect persisted year after year.

The study also showed that one cancer death is prevented for approximately every 400 to 500 women in the screening group.

Professor Duffy added: "This suggests that the long-term benefits of screening, in terms of deaths prevented, are more than double those often quoted for short-term follow-up.

"Unfortunately, we cannot know for certain who will and who won't develop breast cancer. But if you take part in screening and you are diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage, the chances that it will be successfully treated are very good."

* Swedish Two-County Trial: Impact of Mammographic Screening on Breast Cancer Mortality during 3 Decades, Tabár et al, Radiology

Kerry Noble | EurekAlert!
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