Screening cuts risk of breast cancer death by half

U. MELBOURNE (US) — Experts report that women who undergo screening dramatically reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer.

A new study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, is the largest of its kind in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It followed about 4,000 women in a study of the BreastScreen program in Western Australia.

Carolyn Nickson, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, and colleagues from the Melbourne School of Population Health say the findings reaffirm the importance—and effectiveness—of mammography.

The study focused on women between the ages of 50-69, who are in the target age range for screening. It included 427 cases where women had died from breast cancer and 3,650 control women who were still alive when the other women died.

The research team compared screening attendance between the two groups and found screening was much lower among women who had died from breast cancer, a finding that is consistent with a similar study from South Australia and with numerous studies from around the world.

Comparison with similar studies showed an average estimate of a 49 percent reduced risk of dying.

Some other studies, including studies from Australia, claim that screening doesn’t reduce risk of dying from breast cancer. However, these studies do not compare outcomes for individual women.

“Sound research methods have been used in this study. I believe it is time to move on from the debate about whether screening reduces mortality and to instead direct research resources to help improve the program for women who choose to use it,” Nickson says.

Source: University of Melbourne