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Breast cancer death rate almost halves in three decades

But the disease still claims around 11,400 lives a year

The breast cancer death rate in the UK has fallen by 44% in the last three decades, figures reveal.

Cancer Research UK’s analysis shows more than 130,000 deaths have been avoided since 1989, when breast cancer deaths among women hit a record high of 15,600.

The charity said the drop has been driven by major advances in diagnosis and treatment. There have also been improvements in surgical techniques and use of radiotherapy, new drugs and the impact of the national breast screening programme.

Research has also helped highlight the importance of diagnosing cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful. Figures show 98% of women whose breast cancer is caught at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least five years, but for those diagnosed at the most advanced stage this drops to around a quarter (26%).

Around a quarter of breast cancer cases are diagnosed through the NHS breast screening programme, but most people are diagnosed from spotting the signs and going to their GP.

Despite the advances, every year in the UK breast cancer claims around 11,400 lives and around 55,200 new cases are diagnosed.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “These numbers show that research is working, and we should celebrate the considerable progress that’s been made – but while lives are still being lost, our work is not done yet.”