Breast cancer survival rates have improved dramatically

Mammograms can be used to diagnose breast cancer. Photo by Michael Hanschke

On June 13, a study published in the British Medical Journal showed that women diagnosed with breast cancer since 2010 had a much lower risk of death than women diagnosed in the 90s of the 20th century. Women diagnosed in 1993~1999 had a 14.4% risk of death within 5 years. Among women diagnosed in 2010~2015, the proportion has dropped to 4.9%.

Carolyn Taylor, an oncologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, said the study, which involved more than 500,000 women in the UK, took 10 years to complete. The women were diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer between January 1993 and December 2015. The researchers followed them using data from the UK’s National Cancer Registry and Analysis Service until December 2020.

“We only know that breast cancer mortality has declined in the last 20 years, but we don’t know exactly how much it has decreased.” Taylor said the study gave the answer — a two-thirds reduction in deaths.

However, the reason for the decline in mortality is unknown. Since the 90s of the 20th century, awareness of breast cancer has increased and more British women have been routinely screened. “But we can’t say how much improvement is due to treatment, screening, or awareness about breast cancer.” Taylor said.

Taylor said patient participation was also important to the study. For this study, the scientists appointed two patient representatives to guide their research. “They helped us solve the problems that needed to be addressed and made comments and suggestions throughout the study, while helping us interpret the findings in a way that patients could understand.”

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) funded the research. Naser Turabi, of CRUK, who was not involved in the study, said the drop in breast cancer mortality was not surprising and that the study would help patients make more informed decisions about treatment. He also said large-scale studies like this, which follow for years, are important for identifying research and funding priorities. (Source: Li Huiyu, China Science News)

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