Breast cancer deaths at record low

Deaths have fallen below 12,000 for the first time

The number of women dying from breast cancer has fallen to a record low by dipping under 12,000 a year for the first time since records began.

The Cancer Research UK data showed that 11,990 women died in the UK in 2007. The previous lowest figure had been recorded in 1971 – the year records began – after which it rose steadily year-on-year until the late 1980s.

The figures come despite rising rates of diagnoses with experts saying better care and screening is saving lives. Improved chemotherapy, radiotherapy and the emergence of hormone treatments such as Tamoxifen also help prevent the disease from returning.

Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK with 45,500 women every year diagnosed with the disease – a 50% rise in 25 years. The rising rate of breast cancer diagnosis has been put down to a variety of factors including obesity and alcohol consumption.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: ‘It’s incredibly encouraging to see fewer women dying from breast cancer now than at any time in the last 40 years, despite breast cancer being diagnosed more often.

‘Research has played a crucial role in this progress leading to improved treatments and better management for women with the disease. The introduction of the NHS breast screening programme has also contributed as women are more likely to survive the earlier cancer is diagnosed.

‘We hope these new figures will encourage women over the age of 47 to attend screening and to know that even if a tumour is found, their chances of beating it are better than ever.’

Dr Lesley Walker, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Although we are delighted that fewer women are dying from breast cancer, we will not become complacent. Every one of those 11,990 women who died in 2007 was someone’s mother, sister, daughter, friend or colleague and Cancer Research UK – as the UK’s largest funder of breast cancer research – is absolutely committed to finding new ways to help more women survive the disease.’

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