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More than 1.7 million women had a screening mammogram through BreastScreen Australia in 2009-2010, with over 1.3 million in the target age group, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'BreastScreen Australia aims to reduce illness and deaths from breast cancer through early detection of unsuspected breast cancer, which allows early intervention', said AIHW spokesperson Lisa McGlynn.

The report, Breastscreen Australia monitoring report 2009-2010, shows that 55% of women aged 50-69-the program's target age group-were screened in 2009-2010.

In 2009-2010, participation was highest in Outer regional areas (58.2%), and lowest in Very remote areas (47.2%).

'To improve access for women in Remote and Very remote locations, states and territories use relocatable screening services, mobile screening vans and community buses to overcome transport barriers,' Ms McGlynn said.

The difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous women was greater, with 36% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged 50-69 having a screening mammogram in 2009-2010, compared with 55% of non-Indigenous women.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). In 2008, there were around 7,000 new cases diagnosed in Australian women aged 50-69 -this equates to around 19 women aged 50-69 diagnosed with this disease every day.

In 2010, about 1,000 women aged 50-69 died from breast cancer. This equates to around 3 women in the target group dying from this disease every day.  Many breast cancers detected through BreastScreen Australia are small - around half of the cancers detected in the target group in their first screen, and nearly two-thirds in the target group in subsequent screens

'Small breast cancers are associated with better treatment options and improved survival', Ms McGlynn said.

In line with BreastScreen Australia's aim to reduce death resulting from breast cancer, since the program was introduced in 1991, breast cancer deaths for females aged 50-69 have decreased by 37% from 68 to 43 deaths per 100,000 women.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 17 October 2012

Further information: Lisa McGlynn, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244  1168, mob. 0408 204 164

Full publication: Breastscreen Australia monitoring report 2009-2010