Health officials who have been congratulating their extensive mammogram screening programmes as the reason for the sudden drop in breast cancer deaths need to think again.
New research has discovered no evidence to link the two, although screening has helped detect more cases earlier.
Breast cancer death rates in England and Wales have fallen by 12 per cent between 1987 and 1994.
The National Cancer Registration Bureau believes the fall may be more likely associated with the increasing use of the drug tamoxifen, which slows cancer growth, than with any screening.
Since nationwide screening was introduced in 1988, recorded incidence of the disease in the 50 to 64 year age group rose by 25 per cent, while mortality fell steeply after 1990 (BMJ, November 25, 1995).