Mammography Screening Has Low Impact on Mortality

Similar breast cancer mortality rate in European countries with different levels of screening

FRIDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Despite a 10 to 15 year difference in the implementation of mammography screening, paired European countries with similar socioeconomic status and access to treatment had comparable breast cancer mortality after 1989, according to a study published online July 28 in BMJ.

Philippe Autier, from the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, and colleagues compared trends in breast cancer mortality between three pairs of neighboring European countries with similar socioeconomic status and access to treatment. Data were taken from the World Health Organization mortality database on cause of death, and data sources on mammography screening, cancer treatment, and risk factors for breast cancer mortality. Changes in breast cancer mortality, age-adjusted death rates, and the year in which changes in mortality trends appeared were the primary outcomes.

The investigators found that, from 1989 to 2006, breast cancer deaths decreased by 29 and 26 percent in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, respectively; by 25, 20, and 25 percent in the Netherlands, Belgium and Flanders, respectively; and by 16 and 24 percent in Sweden and Norway, respectively. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the Netherlands and Flanders had similar time trends and year of downward inflexion. Implementation of mammography screening differed by about 10 to 15 years in each country pair.

"The contrast between the time differences in implementation of mammography screening and the similarity in reductions in mortality between the country pairs suggest that screening did not play a direct part in the reductions in breast cancer mortality," the authors write.

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