Progress in both detection and management of breast cancer may have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of women over the past three decades, according to a new report.
The cumulative number of breast cancer deaths that have been averted since 1989 ranges between 384,000 and 614,500, depending on different background mortality assumptions.
Looking at 2018 alone, an estimated 27,083 to 45,726 breast cancer deaths were avoided, with the expected mortality rate of breast cancer reduced by 45.3%–58.3%
These estimates come from a study published online today in Cancer
“The take-home message from the paper could not be more clear,” said coauthor Jay Baker, MD, professor of radiology and division chief of breast imaging at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. “The combination of early detection through screening mammography plus improved treatments has saved the lives of somewhere around half a million women living in the United States alone.”
Putting that into context, he added, “That is the equivalent of saving the life of every screening-aged woman living in Chicago today. Or saving every man, woman and child living in Wyoming.”
However, what remains unclear is how much of the improvement is because of screening and how much as a result of improved treatment, as the study was unable to differentiate between the two, he noted.
We cannot separate the lives saved due to early detection at screening versus improved treatments. Dr Jay Baker
The study analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database.
“The is one of the most important breast cancer databases in the United States, but, unfortunately, it does not include information on whether or not a patient’s cancer was discovered at screening,” he said.
“Therefore, we cannot separate the lives saved due to early detection at screening versus improved treatments,” he commented.
Decrease in Breast Cancer Rates
Mortality rates related to breast cancer increased from 1975 to 1990 by 0.4% per year in the United States, but since 1990 rates have been dropping.
Mortality rates from breast cancer decreased by a statistically significant 1.8% per year from 1990 to 1995, 3.4% per year from 1995 to 1998, and 1.8% per year from 1998 to 2015, according to National Cancer Institute statistics.
While this latest study cannot separate out the contributions made by screening and treatment to this decline in breast cancer deaths, a previous study did.
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