Hundreds of Thousands of Breast Cancer Deaths Averted Since 1989

This study demonstrates the significance and efficacy of breast cancer screenings for prevention and early intervention.

A peer reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society showed hundreds of thousands of women’s lives have been saved since 1989 due to mammography and improvements in breast cancer treatment.

Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine analyzed breast cancer mortality and female population data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. Data focusing on women aged 40 to 84 years over the past 3 decades were gathered in order to estimate the number of breast cancer deaths averted by screening mammography and improved treatment since 1989.

According to the press release, the cumulative breast cancer deaths averted since 1989 to 2015 ranged from 305,934 to 483,435 depending on different background mortality assumptions involving screening mammography availability and improved treatment. In 2018, cumulative breast cancer deaths averted since 1989 ranged from 384,000 to 614,500. When considering 2018 alone, an estimated 27,083 to 45,726 breast cancer deaths were averted compared to the 20,083 to 33,842 in 2012.

"Recent reviews of mammography screening have focused media attention on some of the risks of mammography screening, such as call-backs for additional imaging and breast biopsies, downplaying the most important aspect of screening ­— that finding and treating breast cancer early saves women's lives. Our study provides evidence of just how effective the combination of early detection and modern breast cancer treatment have been in averting breast cancer deaths," study author R. Edward Hendrick, PhD, said in the release.

The investigators calculated that mammography and improved treatment decreased the expected mortality rate of breast cancer in 2018 by 45.3% to 58.3%.

According to Dr Hendrick, about half of US women over 40 years of age receive regular screening mammography. "The best possible long-term effect of our findings would be to help women recognize that early detection and modern, personalized breast cancer treatment saves lives and to encourage more women to get screened annually starting at age 40."