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Dramatic drop in number of breast cancer fatalities

Deaths from breast cancer have fallen by 29% in Northern Ireland over the last two decades — the fifth fastest drop in Europe, experts said today.

Overall, death rates from the disease are falling faster in the UK than any other major European country, according to research from 30 countries.

Typically, death rates from breast cancer fell by almost a fifth across the countries, ranging from a 45% reduction in Iceland to a 17% increase in Romania.

England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had the second, fourth, and fifth largest decreases of 35%, 30%, and 29% respectively, coming after Iceland in first place. Luxembourg came in third place with 34%.

In France, Finland, and Sweden, death rates decreased by 11%, 12% and 16% in comparison. The study contradicts claims that survival rates in the UK are worse than in other western European countries. Experts said today the latest research was much more reliable.

The study, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), was led by a team at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

They examined World Health Organisation data on cancer death rates from 1989 to 2006 alongside information from individual countries.

The fall in death rates was greater than 30% in three countries, 20% to 30% in 12 countries, and actually increased in four countries. The overall fall usually began between 1988 and 1996, and trends suggest the drop should continue.

The authors concluded: “Changes in breast cancer mortality after 1988 varied widely between European countries, and the UK is among the countries with the largest reductions.”

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