Annual breast screens for over-50s ruled out

Breast screening mammograms in women over 50 should continue to be carried out at three-year intervals, say UK researchers.

The UK Breast Screening Frequency Trial has shown that annual screening is no better at reducing breast cancer mortality rates than the current method of three-yearly screening for all women aged 50 to 70.

For the study, nearly 100,000 women were randomly assigned to attend an annual or three-yearly mammogram after their first breast cancer screen.

After an average follow-up of 13 years, 373 of 49,173 women invited to annual screening died, compared with 374 of 50,162 in those attending three-yearly mammograms.

Analysis showed that the absolute risk of dying from breast cancer was statistically insignificant between the two groups, delegates were told at the European Breast Cancer Conference, held in Berlin, Germany, last week.

Professor Roger Blamey, a breast surgeon at Nottingham City Hospital and one of the study researchers, said: 'There was a lot of criticism of the UK for having a three-yearly interval when breast screening was set up - screeners and advocacy groups said, without evidence, that it was too long an interval.

'These results indicate that our earlier predicted mortality figures were accurate and that there is no evidence in favour of shortening the current three-year screening interval.'

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

European Breast Cancer Conference

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