IARC findings show breast cancer screening cuts deaths by 40%


A new review published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC): a working group of cancer experts from across the world concluded that the benefit of inviting women aged 50-69 years of age for mammography screening outweighs the potential harms.

IARC brought together a working group of 29 international experts from 16 countries to assess the benefits and harms associated with breast cancer screening. The IARC last reviewed the evidence on breast cancer screening in 2002. As new research continues to be carried out the IARC highlighted particular areas which needed to be considered, they were:

• Improvements in treatments for late-stage breast cancer

• Concerns around over diagnosis (diagnosis of breast cancer that would never have been diagnosed otherwise and would never have caused the woman any harm)

• What age groups of women should be offered screening and how frequently

• Effects of screening through self or health professional breast examination, or approaches other than mammography

• Screening in women at high risk of breast cancer.

Overall, the group concluded that the benefits of mammography screening outweigh the adverse effects for women who are 50-69 years of age. The results from the studies assessed suggested that women in this age group who went for screening had around a 40% reduction in risk from death from breast cancer. The evidence did not definitively show how often a woman needed to be screened to gain maximum benefit.