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The NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP) began in 1988. It aims to invite all women aged 50-70 years for mammographic screening once every three years. The programme now screens 1.3 million women each year, about 75% of those invited, and diagnoses about 10,000 breast cancers annually. Although some have questioned the value of screening for breast cancer, the scientific evidence demonstrates clearly that regular mammographic screening between the ages of 50 and 70 years reduces mortality from the malignancy. Screened women are slightly more likely than unscreened women to be diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancers in screened women are smaller and are less likely to be treated with mastectomy than they would have been if diagnosed without screening. For every 400 women screened regularly by the NHSBSP over a 10-year period, one woman fewer will die from breast cancer than would have died without screening. The current NHSBSP saves an estimated 1400 lives each year in England. The screening programme spends about pound sterling 3000 for every year of life saved.

Original publication




Journal article


J Med Screen

Publication Date





59 - 61


Adult, Aged, Breast Neoplasms, Cost-Benefit Analysis, England, Female, Health Policy, Humans, Mammography, Mass Screening, Middle Aged, State Medicine