Study reports screening has little effect on breast cancer death rates

Added by on July 30, 2011

Breast Cancer Pink Ribbon

A report published on Friday reveals that declining breast cancer death rates are not the result of breast cancer screening programs, yet are instead the result of better treatment and health care systems.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report earlier this year that shows that survival rates from breast cancer are increasing in countries like the Australia, the US, and most wester European countries. Researchers analyzed data from studies carried out in Europe and found that the survival rates in areas having breast screening and those without breast screening were similar, suggesting that screening did not play a role in the lower death rates.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, states that “improvements in treatment and in the efficiency of healthcare systems may be more plausible explanations”, for the decline in death rates from breast cancer.

Changes in US guidelines scaled back recommendations on breast screening two years ago. Patients and doctors resisted the changes stating that women face a higher risk having undetected cases of cancer. Danish scientists found that breast screening did not effect death rates from the disease, while British scientists reported significant reductions in breast cancer death rates as a result of screening. Last month, a report about the longest ever study on breast cancer screening said it found that regular mammograms prevent deaths from breast cancer.

Every year, breast cancer kills around 500,000 people globally and is diagnosed in close to 1.3 million people.

Researchers wrote, “Trends in breast cancer mortality rates varied little between countries where women had been screened by mammography for a considerable time compared with those where women were largely unscreened.

“This is in sharp contrast with the temporal difference of 10 to 15 years in implementation of mammography screening and suggests that screening has not played a direct part in the reductions of breast cancer mortality.”