Breast cancer death rates to improve in 2019, analysis suggests

Breast cancer death rates will fall in the UK and across nearly all EU countries this year, a new study suggests.

The UK is expected to record the greatest decrease out of the six largest countries, with a 13% drop predicted in 2019, according to research in journal Annals Of Oncology.

The researchers said national screening programmes and early diagnosis may be driving the improvements.

It is the ninth year the annual predictions led by Professor Carlo La Vecchia, from the University of Milan, have been published.

National screening programmes and early diagnosis are thought to be driving improvements (Rui Vieira/ PA)
National screening programmes and early diagnosis are thought to be driving improvements (Rui Vieira/ PA)

Death rates from breast cancer are forecast to fall from 14.64 per 100,000 women in 2014, to 13.36 per 100,000 in 2019, a drop of 8.7%.

A decrease is expected in every EU country apart from Poland.

However the researchers warn the number of deaths will increase as the population continues to grow.

“In 2014 there were 92,000 deaths from breast cancer in Europe and in 2019 we are predicting 92,800,” Prof La Vecchia said.

“This means the burden of the disease will continue to increase, with consequent implications for public health and costs to society.

“The improvements in death rates from breast cancer are due to national screening programmes, early diagnosis and improvements in the management and treatment of the disease.”

Of the six largest EU countries, the UK has the greatest predicted decrease in breast cancer death rates for 2019 (13%), followed by France (10%), Germany (9%), Italy (7%), Spain (5%), while in Poland there is a predicted 2% increase.

In the UK, the researchers predict there will be 13.33 breast cancer deaths per 100,000 women in 2019, compared to 15.38 per 100,000 in 2014.

The number of UK deaths will also drop from 11,384 in 2014 to 10,700 in 2019, they suggest.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said the UK was “finally expected to catch up with the rest of Europe”.

“While this analysis represents very positive news, our rate of progress appears to be much greater than our neighbours largely because we have had some of the highest mortality rates in Europe for a long time,” she said.

“We now need to act to ensure NHS breast cancer outcomes continue to improve and reach the Government’s ambition of being among the best in Europe in the long-term.

“In particular, these predictions demonstrate the major impact that our world-class breast screening programme is having in detecting cancers earlier and giving NHS patients the best chance of survival.”

Breast cancer is expected to remain as the second biggest cancer killer for EU women, after lung cancer, in 2019.

The researchers predict there will be a total of 1.4 million deaths from all cancers in the EU in 2019, up around 4.8% from 1.35 million in 2014.

However the rate of cancer deaths is expected to decrease by around 6% for men and 3.6% for women across the EU.

In the UK, the cancer death rate is predicted to drop from 95.31 per 100,000 in 2014, to 89.87 per 100,000 population in 2019.

More than five million cancer deaths have been avoided in the EU in the 31 years since 1988, when the peak rate of cancer deaths was recorded, the researchers also suggest.

This includes 440,000 deaths from breast cancer.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “Thanks to improved NHS cancer care, fewer people are dying from cancer each month than would have in the previous year.

“Catching more cancers early is a cornerstone of the NHS long-term plan to save a further 55,000 lives a year, and the NHS is determined to be among the very best in the world in preventing cancer.”