Breast cancer screening "saves lives" says Cancer Research UK

In collaboration with the Press Association

Breast screening is very effective and saves more than 1,000 lives every year, Cancer Research UK has said following a report looking into the pros and cons of breast cancer screening progammes.

The research, by the Nordic Cochrane Centre, examined previous research into the benefits of a number of international breast cancer screening programmes.

It claimed that for every 2,000 women invited to be screened in a decade, one will have her life prolonged but ten will have to undergo unnecessary treatment.

Medical director of Cancer Research UK, Professor John Toy, said that the report did not question the fact that lives are saved through national screening programmes, however.

"This latest Cochrane review concludes that breast cancer screening saves lives, specifically by reducing breast cancer mortality," said Professor Toy.

"This is a positive change of view from the 2001 Cochrane report which called the benefits into question.

"Researchers in the field all agree that breast screening saves lives although they differ in their views about the balance of the pros and cons.

"Benefits need to be balanced against any disadvantages, as is the case with all medical treatments. Certainly women invited for screening should be made aware of both potential benefits and downsides - such as possible initial misdiagnosis.

"But overall we continue to encourage UK women to participate in the NHS Breast Screening Programme."

The study is published in the journal the Cochrane Library.