Introduction: We investigated survival in breast cancer patients by age group, focussing on those covered by screening programmes, using data from 12 European population-based cancer registries participating in the European Network for Indicators on Cancer Survival Working Group.
Methods: We calculated period estimates of 5-year relative survival for 2000-2004 and examined the change in survival estimates for four age groups between 1990-1994 and 2000-2004. Trends in age specific incidence, survival and mortality were additionally compared to those in the United States based on results from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) programme.
Results: Breast cancer survival uniformly increased particularly in areas with lower breast cancer survival for patients diagnosed in 1990-1994. With the exception of Geneva, Scotland and Estonia, the rise in survival was always larger among the younger age groups than in the 70+ age group and the age-gradient widened over time. The 5-year relative survival of patients aged 70 and above in the European registries was at least 7 percentage points lower than the 5-year relative survival of patients in the same age group in the US in 2000-2004. During the study period, incidence increased in all age groups and populations with a few exceptions, an observation paralleled by declining mortality.
Conclusions: Results showed that some of the geographical differences in overall survival are even larger when considering age groups, in particular between Western and Eastern European countries. Furthermore, some of the differences in survival within the Northern and Western European areas could be due to variations in the implementation of screening programmes rather than economic inequalities.
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