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Br J Cancer. 1999 Nov;81(5):912-7.

Interval cancers in the Dutch breast cancer screening programme.

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Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


The nationwide breast cancer screening programme in The Netherlands for women aged 50-69 started in 1989. In our study we assessed the occurrence and stage distribution of interval cancers in women screened during 1990-1993. Records of 0.84 million screened women were linked to the regional cancer registries yielding a follow-up of at least 2.5 years. Age-adjusted incidence rates and relative (proportionate) incidences per tumour size including ductal carcinoma in-situ were calculated for screen-detected and interval cancers, and cancers in not (yet) screened women, comparing them with published data from the UK regions North West and East Anglia. In total 1527 interval cancers were identified: 0.95 and 0.99 per 1000 woman-years of follow-up in the 2-year interval after initial and subsequent screens respectively. In the first year after initial screening interval cancers amounted to 27% (26% after subsequent screens) of underlying incidence, and in the second year to 52% (55%). Generally, interval cancers had a more favourable tumour size distribution than breast cancer in not (yet) screened women. The Dutch programme detected relatively less (favourable) invasive cancers in initial screens than the UK programme, whereas the number of interval cancers confirms UK findings. Measures should be considered to improve the detection of small invasive cancers and to reduce false-negative rates, even if this will lead to increasing referral rates.

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