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Mammography programme associated with significant reduction in breast cancer deaths

Researchers have conducted an analysis of breast screening processes to determine their usefulness and overdiagnosis in one of the largest programmes in the UK

The mammographic screening programme was introduced to the UK more than three decades ago and it remains one of the largest nationally coordinated programmes, currently inviting over three million women to attend.

However, discussion and debate have continued over the relative value of such an intervention, when compared with the risks of harm and other costs, as well as its usefulness in an era of more efficacious treatments.

Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of breast screening, involving data from nearly one million women, scrutinising the effect of the programme on breast cancer death. Risk of death and overdiagnosis of breast cancer were also examined.

The findings showed that invitation to screening was concomitant with a significant reduction in breast cancer mortality of more than 20%, compared

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The mammographic screening programme was introduced to the UK more than three decades ago and it remains one of the largest nationally coordinated programmes, currently inviting over three million women to attend.


Mammography was associated with a greater than 20% reduction in breast cancer mortality
Picture: Science Photo Library

However, discussion and debate have continued over the relative value of such an intervention, when compared with the risks of harm and other costs, as well as its usefulness in an era of more efficacious treatments.

Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of breast screening, involving data from nearly one million women, scrutinising the effect of the programme on breast cancer death. Risk of death and overdiagnosis of breast cancer were also examined.

The findings showed that invitation to screening was concomitant with a significant reduction in breast cancer mortality of more than 20%, compared with women who were not invited, with little evidence of overdiagnosis.


Johns L, Coleman D, Swerdlow A et al (2017) Effect of population breast screening on breast cancer mortality up to 2005 in England and Wales: an individual-level cohort study. British Journal of Cancer. 116, 2, 246-252.

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