A fall in breast cancer death rates was not influenced by screening programmes, research shows.
After data from three pairs of European countries were analysed, experts discovered that the death-rate decrease in each pair was similar.
This was the case despite each country introducing breast cancer screening between 10 and 15 years apart.
For the comparison the experts paired up Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Flanders and the Netherlands, and Norway and Sweden.
The study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) looked at breast cancer death rates between 1989 and 2006.
It found that in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the death rates fell by 29% and 26% respectively.
The Netherlands saw a 25% fall in contrast to 20% in Belgium and 25% in Flanders. And Sweden experienced a 16% drop compared with 24% in Norway.
The researchers, who analysed data on deaths from the World Health Organisation database, concluded: “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.”
- Autier P, et al. Breast cancer mortality in neighbouring European countries with different levels of screening but similar access to treatment: trend analysis of WHO mortality database. BMJ 2011; Advance online publication