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Acta Oncol. 2010 Jun;49(5):624-31. doi: 10.3109/02841860903575323.

Trends in the survival of patients diagnosed with breast cancer in the Nordic countries 1964-2003 followed up to the end of 2006.

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  • 1Icelandic Cancer Registry, Icelandic Cancer Society, Reykjavik, Iceland.



Breast cancer is the leading cancer among women worldwide in terms of both incidence and mortality. European patients have generally high 5-year relative survival ratios, and the Nordic countries, except for Denmark, have ratios among the highest.


Based on the NORDCAN database we present trends in age-standardised incidence and mortality rates of invasive breast cancer in the Nordic countries, alongside 5- and 10-year relative survival for the period of diagnosis 1964-2003 followed up to the end of 2006. Excess mortality rates are also provided for varying follow-up intervals after diagnosis. The analysis is confined to invasive breast cancer in Nordic women.


Incidence increased rapidly in all five countries, whereas mortality remained almost unchanged. Both incidence and mortality rates were highest in Denmark. Between 1964 and 2003 both 5- and 10-year relative survival increased by 20-30 percentage points in all countries, and 10-year survival remained around 10 percentage points lower than 5-year survival. Relative survival was lowest in Denmark throughout the period, with a 5-year survival of 79% for years 1999-2003, but 83-87% in the other countries. From 1964 the youngest women had the highest survival ratios up until the introduction of screening, when a shift occurred towards higher survival among age groups 50-59 and 60-69 in each country, except for Denmark. Excess death rates during the first months after diagnosis were highest in Denmark.


Breast cancer survival is high and rising in the Nordic countries, and probably relates to the early implementation of organised mammography screening in each country except Denmark and a high and relatively uniform standard of living, diagnosis and treatment. Denmark stands out with higher mortality and poorer survival. The major determinants may include a failure to instigate national breast screening and a greater co-morbidity resulting from a higher prevalence of both tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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