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Drop in Breast Cancer Death Rates May Not Be Linked to Screening Rates
Date:7/29/2011

FRIDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Developed countries have seen a drop in breast cancer death rates in recent years, but a new international study suggests this trend is less about rising screening rates and more about the availability of increasingly effective treatments and improving health-care systems.

The finding stems from an analysis of World Health Organization (WHO) breast cancer data collected between 1980 and 2006, in which French, British and Norwegian researchers compared the screening and fatality rates of several Western European countries. The observations were presented online July 29 in the British Medical Journal.

"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," a team of researchers led by Philippe Autier, research director of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, said in a journal news release.

To explore to what degree breast cancer screening rates appeared to be related to fatality rates, the authors chose six countries for points of comparison.

Northern Ireland was stacked up against the Republic of Ireland; the Netherlands was compared with Belgium/Flanders; and Sweden was examined alongside Norway.

The team noted that medical services and the prevalence of breast cancer death risk factors were comparable in each pairing. However, in the space of the study, the second country of each of the three groups was 10 to 15 years behind the first country in terms of their implementation of mammography screening protocols.

The results: Breast cancer death rates, which dropped across the board, were more or less similar in each country pairing, despite stark differences in screening histories.

For example, fatalities between 1989 and 2006 had
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