Breast cancer screening in England and the United States: a comparison of provision and utilisation

Int J Public Health. 2015 Dec;60(8):881-90. doi: 10.1007/s00038-015-0740-5. Epub 2015 Oct 7.


Objectives: Comparing breast cancer screening across countries within the context of some of the benefits and harms offers the opportunity to improve effectiveness through mutual learning.

Methods: This paper describes the provision of breast cancer screening in England and the United States. The various recommendations for accessing breast cancer screening in the two countries are set out and the organisation of services including quality assurance, incentives and performance mechanisms considered.

Results: In the United States, younger women are routinely screened; they are less likely to benefit and more likely to be harmed. The utilisation of breast cancer screening amongst eligible women is broadly comparable in the two countries. However, there are differences in technical performance; the reasons for these including radiological reading procedures and cultural factors are explored.

Conclusions: Despite a well-functioning screening programme, breast cancer mortality and survival in England are poor relative to other countries. Emphasis for American improvement should be on reducing false-positive recall rates, while the English NHS could supplement existing efforts to understand and improve comparatively poor survival and mortality.

Keywords: Breast cancer; England; Mammography; Screening; United States.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • England / epidemiology
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography* / standards
  • Mammography* / statistics & numerical data
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Program Evaluation
  • United States / epidemiology