Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Numbers of People Beating Breast Cancer At All Time High

Breast Cancer Screening

By Ben Aulakh

The numbers people dying of breast cancer have fallen faster in the United Kingdom in the last 20 years than in any other European country except for Iceland.

That’s according to a new study in the British Medical Journal which challenges previous claims about the poor survival rates in the UK in comparison to other western European countries.

A team of scientists at the International Prevention Research Institute in France studied data on breast cancer mortality rates in women living in 30 European countries between 1980 and 2006.

World Health Organisation data was used to calculate mortality rates for all women by age group, the two sets of data showed that between 1989 and 2006, breast cancer mortality decreased by at least 20 per cent in 15 European countries.

The numbers of those dying of breast cancer dropped by more than 30 per cent in the UK, more than double the reduction of any other country in Europe except for Iceland.

Hilary Tovey, Cancer Research UK's policy manager said, "The UK has seen greater decreases in the number of women dying from breast cancer than many other European countries.

"This research highlights the great progress we've made in reducing deaths from breast cancer over the past 20 years.

Rates fell by between ten and 16 per cent in France, Finland and Sweden, where significant resources have been invested in breast screening and new cancer drugs.

Meanwhile, mortality rates did not decline in central European countries and some have even seen an increase in the past two decades.

The study authors suggest that this improvement may be due to high rates of breast screening, the use of effective drugs such as tamoxifen, and the reorganisation of breast cancer services.

Writing in an accompanying editorial, Professor Dame Valerie Beral and Professor Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford, point out that the way in which cancers are registered in the UK is imperfect.

This has meant in the past that cancer survival rates may have seemed significantly worse than they really were, explaining why previous reports have suggested that the UK has performed relatively poorly compared to its European neighbours.

In contrast, population-based mortality rates in middle age are reasonably reliable, as the registration of death is complete and deaths from breast cancer are well-recorded.

Professors Beral and Peto concluded that previous failures to take into account the shortcomings of cancer registration data "may well have led to misleading claims about the supposed inferiority of UK cancer treatment services in general".

Hilary added, "Reorganising breast cancer services, screening, improved awareness and better treatments, made possible as a result of excellent research, have all had a role to play.”

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