Photo of Peter Bottomley

Peter Bottomley (Worthing West, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the possible factors associated with the changes in detection of breast cancers since 1982; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Anna Soubry

Anna Soubry (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health; Broxtowe, Conservative)

Female breast cancer incidence rates have increased in the United Kingdom since the mid-1970s, at around 1% to 2% per year. In 1982 in England, there were 21,914 cases of breast cancer in women and in 2010 this figure had risen to 41,259. This increase is due to many factors, including the ageing population.

The introduction of the NHS Breast Screening Programme in 1988 led to a short-lived additional increase in incidence as a number of existing breast cancers were diagnosed in women screened for the first time. This trend largely occurred in women aged 50 to 64, the age group invited when the screening programme first started. By the mid-1990s, the increase in incidence rates had returned to the pre-screening level.

A recent steep rise in incidence rates for women aged 65 to 69 can be attributed to the extension of breast screening to women aged 65 to 70 between 2001 and 2006. Trends in breast cancer incidence have also been affected by the reduction in the number of women taking hormone replacement therapy, which had been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer in some women.

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