Scientists offer reassurances on benefits of breast cancer screening

Breast cancer screening saves lives, an international team of scientists has insisted.

A number of debates have arisen recently about the advantages and drawbacks of the procedure, but a study led by the World Health Organization's cancer agency claims any fears over screening are outweighed by benefits to the wellbeing of patients.

The findings, covered in the New England Journal of Medicine, agree with current NHS advice, which recommends women aged 50 to 69 are screened every three years.

The proportion of women following this advice across England has dipped slightly over the past few years and the report has stressed the ability of screening to save lives.

The NHS estimates that a total of 1,300 lives a year have already been saved through using such methods, but this latest report has acknowledged some potential disadvantages to the procedure, such as over-diagnosis, where a slow-growing cancer is given unnecessary treatment.

But report author Professor Stephen Duffy, of Queen Mary University of London, UK, insisted: "This important analysis will hopefully reassure women around the world that breast screening with mammography saves lives.

"The evidence proves breast screening is a vital tool in increasing early diagnosis of breast cancer and therefore reducing the number of deaths."