The test uses an X-ray that can spot cancers when they are too small to see or feel – which helps with early detection and improves chances of survival. Researchers at London’s Queen Mary University and Falun Central Hospital in Sweden calculated rates of advanced and fatal breast cancer in 549,091 women within 10 years of diagnosis.
They compared the rates in women who participated in recommended mammography screening to those who did not.
Scientists saw a 41 percent reduction in fatal cancers in women who took up the recommended breast screening.
And they found a 25 percent reduction in advanced breast cancer in women who had the suggested X-rays. Dr Stephen Duffy, from Queen Mary University, said: “This study shows that participation in breast cancer screening substantially reduces the risk of having a fatal breast cancer.
“Because the comparison of participating with non-participating persons was contemporaneous – with mammography screening and breast cancer treatment belonging to the same time period – it is not affected by potential changes in treatment of breast cancer over time.”
About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime in the UK. Breast screening is offered to women aged 50 to 71 but the NHS is trialling the test in younger and older women.
Dr Laszlo Tabar from Falun Central Hospital stressed that early breast cancer screening reduces the risk of dying from the disease above and beyond current therapies in the absence of screening.
He added: “Our study shows that nothing can replace finding breast cancer early.”
The findings were published online by the journal Cancer.