Mortality rate for breast cancer is 9pc lower among women in eastern region
The death rate from breast cancer is 9pc lower among women in the east compared to the rest of the country, according to a new study.
It has been linked to the head start women over 50 years of age had in Dublin and surrounding counties with the introduction of the free Breastcheck screening programme in 2000.
They were invited for free breast mammograms, the X-ray which can pick up cancer in women when symptoms may not yet be evident.
However, the extension of Breastcheck to 12 other counties did not begin until 2007.
The study was carried out by Katie O'Brien in collaboration with Jim Hanley from McGill University in Canada and Ailish Hannigan of the University of Limerick.
The research looked at cancer rates between 2000 and 2013.
It said that in absolute terms, the estimated number of deaths prevented in the eastern region by having this eight-year advantage was around 100.
The regional difference in death rates will narrow in time, the study in 'Plos One' journal said.
Mortality reductions are not the only benefits of earlier detection and treatment, said the National Cancer Registry.
Other benefits include less extensive treatments and less illness.
Breast screening based on invitation of women in a particular age group has been controversial in recent years.
Studies have found mammograms detect deadly cancers and save lives.
But the screening can also diagnose early cancers that are not destined to grow or spread and become a health threat.
It means some women receive treatments they don't really need, causing over-diagnosis.
Around one in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
Screening aims to find cancer when it is too small to see or feel and is performed with a mammogram.
Around 2,883 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed here annually. This represents almost one-third of all major malignancies diagnosed in women.
The incidence rate increased significantly between 1994 and 2013, by 1.5pc annually.
The trend has been influenced somewhat by the introduction of screening through Breastcheck.
Although survival from breast cancer is high - currently standing at around 82pc - it is the second most common cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer.
On average, 690 deaths a year are due to this form of the diseases.
The good news is that death rates have declined significantly by about 2pc per year since 1994. The trends for increasing survival and decreasing mortality are largely due to improvement in treatment as well as to earlier detection.