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Queen Mary research wins international award

Research jointly led by Queen Mary, University of London into the long-term impact of breast cancer screening has received an international award from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

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The RSNA’s inaugural Alexander Margulis Award for Scientific Excellence has been awarded to the research team behind the study, “Swedish Two-County Trial: Impact of Mammographic Screening on Breast Cancer Mortality During 3 Decades,” which was published in the RSNA’s journal Radiology in September 2011.

Stephen Duffy, Professor of Cancer Screening at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of QM, and a co-author of the study accepted the award on behalf of the research team.

“It is a great honour to receive the Alexander Margulis Award for Scientific Excellence,” said Professor Duffy.

“We take it as a tribute to the many colleagues, especially Profesor Tabar of Falun in Sweden who guided this study through the decades, and all personnel working on the Swedish Two-County Trial over the years, and to the many women who participated in the trial. They have all played an important part in providing evidence for the substantial long-term reduction in breast cancer mortality brought about by early detection and treatment in the early phases of this dreadful disease.”

The Swedish Two-County Trial of mammographic screening included more than 130,000 women and was the first to show that screening, with mammography only, led to fewer deaths from breast cancer. It compared a group of women who were invited for regular mammograms with a group who were not. The researchers followed up the women for 29 years – the longest recorded follow-up period for a mammography screening trial – and found that 30 per cent fewer women in the screening group died of breast cancer.

While the relative effect of screening on breast cancer mortality remained stable over the follow-up period, the absolute benefit in terms of lives saved increased with longer follow-up times. At 29 years of follow-up, the estimated number of women needed to undergo screening every 2 or 3 years over a seven-year period to prevent one breast cancer death ranged from 414 to 519.

“Most of the deaths prevented would have occurred more than 10 years after the screening started,” Professor Duffy said. “This indicates that the long-term benefits of screening in terms of deaths prevented are more than double those often quoted for short-term follow-up.”

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