Breast cancer screening has not reduced mortality rates, warns study

Landmark research looked at evidence dating back four decades

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Breast cancer screening has not reduced mortality rates according to a landmark study that looked at evidence dating back four decades.

Researchers from the Department of Public Health at the University of Oxford analysed causes of death in the Oxford region before and after the introduction of the NHS Breast Screening Programme in 1988.

They found no evidence of a decline in breast cancer deaths that could be attributed to screening.

The findings contradict previous analysis by Department of Health, which concluded last year that there was a 20 per cent reduction in breast cancer deaths among women who had been invited for a screening. The research will add to a fierce debate over the value of such screening programmes.

Toqir Mukhtar, who led the new study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, said that while their results did not rule out positive outcomes from screening for individual women, the effect was not showing up in statistics on a population level.

"Measuring the effectiveness of mammography screening is a fundamental area of concern in countries which have established screening programmes," she said. "…our data shows that there is no evidence of an effect of mammographic screening on breast cancer mortality at the population level over an observation period of almost 40 years."