Why a quarter of women may need breast screening every year

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One in four middle-aged women should be screened for breast cancer every year, new research says.

Women aged between 50 and their early 70s have NHS mammograms every three years. However, the new research suggests that women with ‘high density’ breasts should be screened annually.

The fear is that women with high density breasts are six times more likely to develop cancer and that it is also much harder for mammograms to detect warning signs in denser breast tissue. .

Researchers from the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modelling Network, in collaboration with the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, studied the effectiveness of screening on women aged between 50 and 74, who had different risk levels and breast density.

They found that screening every three years was ‘safe and effective’ for average-risk women.  Around a quarter of women have dense breast tissue which contains more glandular tissue and less fat.

The NHS breast screening programme is offered to all women aged 50 to 70 in the UK and is credited with saving around 1,300 lives a year by spotting cancer before it can spread.

Jacquie Jenkins, Public Health England’s Breast Screening Programme Manager, said: ‘’This is particularly beneficial for pre-menopausal women and younger women with a family history of breast cancer. If a woman is concerned about her risk of developing breast cancer, she can discuss this with her GP who can then refer her to specialist genetics services for testing if appropriate.”

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