11 August 2011
Breast cancer isn’t quite the deadly disease it once was – but doctors can’t explain why. The one thing they do know is that intensive screening programmes have had nothing to do with the sudden drop in the number of women dying from the disease.
Breast cancer deaths have been falling dramatically across Europe since 1989; in Northern Ireland, deaths have fallen by 29 per cent, in the Netherlands by 25 per cent, in Belgium by 20 per cent and by 24 per cent in Norway.
But it seems that breast screening programmes – designed to detect early signs of the disease – have had little to do with the reduction. Some of the countries that have seen the reduction do not have full screening programmes, and most of the reductions have been in women aged between 40 and 49, who may not have even started to be screened, researchers discovered.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2011; 343: d4411).