Screening cuts breast cancer deaths - study

Screening for breast cancer in older women could save up to 34 lives a year, says a new Otago University study.

Screening women aged 50-69 should result in 20-34 fewer breast cancer deaths a year, an overall reduction of between 5.7-8 percent, a Dunedin School of Medicine survey found.

Beginning screening at 45 instead of 50 should prevent an additional one to seven deaths.

Study author Associate Professor Brian Cox said the overall effect of screening was "modest as the reduction was confined to just a few age groups".

"These estimates rely on over 80 percent participation in screening by eligible women, a much greater figure than the 61.2 percent for women aged 50-69 years currently being achieved."

He said the results showed the need for better screening methods to increase participation in the free service.

"International improvements in breast cancer treatment have produced bigger reductions in mortality and they slightly preceded the introduction of breast screening, so the future reduction in breast cancer mortality rates will undoubtedly be due to improvements in treatment in addition to screening." 

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