Background: Screening with mammography has been shown by randomized controlled trials to reduce breast cancer mortality in women aged 40 to 74 years. Estimates from observational studies following screening implementation in different countries have produced varyied findings. We report findings for seven Canadian breast screening programs.
Methods: Canadian breast screening programs were invited to participate in a study aimed at comparing breast cancer mortality in participants and nonparticipants. Seven of 12 programs, representing 85% of the Canadian population, participated in the study. Data were obtained from the screening programs and corresponding cancer registries on screening mammograms and breast cancer diagnoses and deaths for the period between 1990 and 2009. Standardized mortality ratios were calculated comparing observed mortality in participants to that expected based upon nonparticipant rates. A substudy using data from British Columbia women aged 35 to 44 years was conducted to assess the potential effect of self-selection participation bias. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: Data were obtained on 2796472 screening participants. The average breast cancer mortality among participants was 40% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 33% to 48%) lower than expected, with a range across provinces of 27% to 59%. Age at entry into screening did not greatly affect the magnitude of the average reduction in mortality, which varied between 35% and 44% overall. The substudy found no evidence that self-selection biased the reported mortality results, although the confidence intervals of this assessment were wide.
Conclusion: Participation in mammography screening programs in Canada was associated with substantially reduced breast cancer mortality.
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