adult screening programme

Breast cancer

In the UK, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. It usually affects women over 50 years of age and have reached menopause. It is possible for women of any age to be affected by breast cancer. In rare cases, the condition can also affect men.

Read more about breast cancer on the NHS website.

UK NSC screening recommendation Based on the last UK NSC review of this condition that occurred in December 2019.

Screening for this condition is recommended.

Breast screening started in the UK in 1988, before the UK NSC was formed. The committee has therefore not formally considered the evidence for screening for breast cancer.

In 2012, the government asked Sir Michael Marmot to chair an independent review of the evidence for breast screening. He found that in the UK the screening programme prevents around 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year. But he also found evidence of overdiagnosis and that for every death prevented by screening, around 3 women will be treated for a cancer which would not have harmed them. Overall, however, the review concluded that breast screening has significant benefit and should continue.

The UK NSC has endorsed the use of digital pathology as an alternative option to light microscopy for the review of breast screening histopathology slides. This followed a consultation into the results of a Health Technology Assessment study that found that digital pathology performs as well as light microscopy in cancer screening.

Changes to the breast screening programme

The UK NSC considers changes to screening programmes when there is strong evidence that they could improve outcomes. See our current and past proposals to modify the breast screening programme.

Supporting documents from the 2019 review

UK NSC Evidence Review Additional Breast screening with ultrasound in women with dense breasts Final 27 02 2019
This document provides the evidence on which the current UK NSC recommendation is based.

UK NSC coversheet & consultation responses Breast Ultrasound and Dense (2019)
This document summarises the review process including the public consultation comments.

Screening around the UK

The UK NSC recommends screening for this condition, however this may vary slightly depending on where you are in the UK.

Review cycle

Date previous review completed: 2019

Next review estimated to be completed: 2023 to 2024.

To see previous evidence reviews, visit the UK NSC archive.

Organisations interested in Breast cancer

These organisations have expressed interest in this recommendation and may submit responses to evidence reviews.

List of organisations

If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us.