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More than 1.3 million women aged 50-69 (the target age group) were screened through the BreastScreen Australia program in 2010 and 2011, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2010-2011, shows that just over half (55%) of women in the target age group for free breast screening had a mammogram in 2010-2011, but screening rates remain lower among certain population groups.

Participation in breast screening was lower among certain population groups, such as women in Very remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and women who reported speaking a language other than English at home.

'The difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous women was greatest, with 36% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women having a screening mammogram in 2010-11, compared with 54% of non-Indigenous women,' said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.

Among women screened for the first time in 2011, further investigation was required for 11%, and of women attending subsequent screens, 4% were recalled. Women are recalled for further investigation if any anomalies are found. This allows for early intervention if breast cancer is detected.

'A high proportion of breast cancers detected in 2011 were small-50% of those attending their first screen, and 63% of those attending subsequent screens,' Mr Harvey said.

'Small breast cancers (less than 15 millimetres in diameter) are associated with better treatment options and improved treatment outcomes and survival.'

In 2009, there were 7,022 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in Australian women aged 50-69. This is equivalent to about 288 new cases per 100,000 women.

Breast cancer incidence has remained steady at around 290 per 100,000 women since 2003.

In 2010, 1,098 women aged 50-69 died from breast cancer, equivalent to 43 deaths per 100,000 women, making breast cancer the second most common cause of cancer-related death for Australian women after lung cancer.

Breast cancer mortality dropped from 68 to 43 per 100,000 women between 1991 (when BreastScreen Australia began) and 2010. This has been largely attributed to the early detection of cancers through screening practices, such as BreastScreen Australia, along with advances in management and treatment.

In recent years, breast cancer mortality has continued to drop-from 52 deaths to 43 per 100,000 women between 2005 and 2010. 

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, 25 October 2013

Further information: Mr Justin Harvey, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5057, mob. 0450 677 562

Full publication: BreastScreen Australia monitoring report 2010-2011