Breast screening review
In response to the debate about the effectiveness of breast screening and criticism of the information given to women, Cancer Research UK has been working with the National Cancer Director to set up an independent review of breast screening. The independent panel was selected at the beginning of 2012 and their report is now available.
The Independent Breast Screening Review panel concluded that screening reduces breast cancer deaths but at the cost of overdiagnosis.
The panel’s full report, the executive summary of the report and the panel’s press release are available to download:
- Independent Breast Screening Review full report [pdf]
- Executive summary of the Independent Breast Screening Review report [pdf]
- Independent panel press release [pdf]
The independent panel also submitted a shortened version of their report to the medical journal The Lancet. If you are interested in reading the full scientific article, you can find it free of charge on the Lancet's webpage.
Cancer Research UK’s official response to the independent review can be found on our news section.
If you want to find out more about what the independent review’s findings mean for women who are invited for breast cancer screening, you can find a Q&A on CancerHelp UK.
Cancer Research UK has also produced an infographic to help put these results into perspective.
For a more general take on the results and future directions for research into breast screening, have a look at the Cancer Research UK Science blog.
The overall aim of the review was to develop an up-to-date assessment of both the benefits and the harms associated with population breast screening programmes. A panel consisting of nationally and internationally recognised experts in epidemiology and/or medical statistics as well as in current breast cancer diagnosis and treatment practices was convened to achieve this aim.
No panel member has previously published on breast screening, helping to ensure an objective and independent assessment of the evidence. A patient advocate also provided input to the independent review.
The panel called on a range of experts, from all sides of the debate, to give evidence for consideration by the panel. These expert witnesses also suggested additional scientific evidence for consideration by the panel. A list of the expert witnesses who presented to the panel and debated points relevant to the review can be found in appendix 1 of the panel’s full report (pdf).
The panel was chaired by Professor Sir Michael G Marmot, Director of the Institute of Health Equity, University College London; Chair, European Review on the Social Determinants of Health and the Health Divide; Director, International Institute for Society and Health and MRC Research Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London.
Sir Michael Marmot has led a research group on health inequalities for 35 years. He is Principal Investigator of the Whitehall II Studies of British Civil Servants, investigating explanations for the striking inverse social gradient in morbidity and mortality. He leads the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and is engaged in several international research efforts on the social determinants of health. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution for six years, and served as President of the British Medical Association (BMA) in 2010-2011. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy, and an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians.
The other panellists were:
- Professor Doug G Altman, Director of the Centre for Statistics in Medicine and Cancer Research UK Medical Statistics Group, University of Oxford. Doug’s varied research interests include the use and abuse of statistics in medical research, studies of prognosis, regression modeling, systematic reviews, randomised trials, and studies of medical measurement. He is actively involved in efforts to improve the quality of scientific publications by promoting transparent and accurate reporting of health research.
- Professor David A Cameron, Clinical Director of the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, Director of Cancer Services at NHS Lothian and Professor of Oncology at Edinburgh University. Previously, David was the Director of the NIHR National Cancer Research Network and Professor of Oncology at Leeds University. His research interests are in translational and clinical trials in breast cancer and he is the principal investigator of several clinical trials looking at adjuvant therapies. Before qualifying as a medical doctor, David completed an undergraduate degree in Mathematics.
- Professor John A Dewar, Consultant and honorary Professor of Clinical Oncology. Until recently, John was Head of Oncology at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. John has a long standing interest in the management of patients with breast cancer and has been closely involved in clinical trials of both radiotherapy and systemic therapy for breast cancer.
- Professor Simon G Thompson, Director of Research in Biostatistics at the University of Cambridge. Simon’s research interests are in meta-analysis and evidence synthesis, clinical trial methodology, health economic evaluation, and cardiovascular epidemiology. He has collaborated on a number of major clinical trials, recently including all the major UK national trials of screening and treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysms.
- Maggie Willcox, patient advocate. Maggie was a Health Visitor for many years before working as Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in palliative care prior to her breast cancer diagnosis in 1997. After early retirement following her treatment, she became involved in patient advocacy in cancer services and research. She now provides a patient voice at national and local level as a member of various organisations, including the National Cancer Research Institute Breast Clinical Study Group and the Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire Network Breast Site Specific Group.
Cancer Research UK’s role in the review was to ensure that the process was thorough, independent and fair. We had no influence on the independent panel. We provided project management and support to the panel and communicated regular updates on the review process on this page.
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