Sharp fall in UK breast cancer deaths

Death rates from breast cancer have fallen sharply in the UK in the past 20 years, a study published today shows.

Between 1989 and 2006 they fell by 34.3% - faster than in any other major European country. England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had the second, fourth, and fifth largest decreases of 35%, 30%, and 29% respectively, coming after Iceland in first place.

But while Britain has dropped from the top of the European league of death rates, it remains sixth worst out of 28 countries. Survival rates are better in 21 other European countries including Romania, Estonia and the Czech Republic and breast cancer still kills 12,000 women in Britain every year, the study shows.

Nevertheless, cancer charities said the study is evidence that new treatments and a reorganisation of services are beginning to yield results in the UK.

Researchers in Northern Ireland, France, Italy and Norway compared mortality rates from breast cancer, as recorded on death certificates, from countries across western and central Europe.

Their analysis, published in the British Medical Journal, found British mortality rates from the disease dropped from 41.6 deaths per 100,000 women per year in 1989, to 28.2 per 100,000 in 2006.

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