Breast cancer cases rise, but mortality drops
DESPITE an increase in cases of breast cancer over the past 20 years, mortality is now at an all-time low, due in part to the national breast screening program that began in 1991, researchers say.
In 1991, 230 women per 100,000 in the 50-69 years target age group developed breast cancer, and 67 died, according to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.
But by 2005, although there were 279 new cases for every 100,000 women, the mortality rate had dropped to 47.5 – the lowest level since the program began.
Report co-author Dr Alison Budd said it was likely the BreastScreen Australia program played a role in the decrease, but improved cancer therapies were another key factor.
“[Lower mortality] is likely to be due to a combination of both,” she said.
The report shows that, over the decade to 2006, the proportion of invasive breast cancers detected that were small remained above 60 per cent.
In 2005-06, 1.6 million Australian women participated in the screening program. More than three-quarters were in the target group aged 50-69.
Some 57% of eligible women were screened, up from the 51% in 1996-97 and only just below the peak of 57.1% in 2001-02.
The report reveals that, in 2006, 1061 women aged 50-69 died from breast cancer in Australia. Overall, there were 2618 deaths, and the disease remains the second-most common cause of death.