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13.09.12

Study on breast cancer screening demonstrates benefits

Breast cancer screening saves two lives for every one patient who receives unnecessary treatment, according to new research.

A major European review, published in the Journal of Medical Screening, found that mammograms saved between seven and nine lives for every 1,000 women screened.

Screening can detect essentially harmless lumps as well as dangerous tumours, which can improve the effectiveness of treatment and chances of survival. Per 1,000 women, around four cases are over-diagnosed.

The Department of Health is currently reviewing the evidence around breast cancer screening.

One of the lead researchers, Professor Stephen Duffy from Queen Mary, University of London, said the study “confirms that the screening services are delivering the benefits expected from the research studies conducted years ago”.

He added: “In particular, it is good news that lives saved by screening outweigh over-diagnosed cases by a factor of two to one. Screening doesn't just save lives today or tomorrow, it saves lives 10-20 years down the line.”

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's senior science information manager, said: “This study adds to the information which is currently being independently reviewed on the harms and benefits of breast screening. The independent panel is taking account of all relevant views, studies and evidence. We look forward to the conclusions, which will be available later this year.”

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