Death rates from breast cancer have been on a steady decline in recent decades, dropping 43% between 1989 and 2020.
The average risk of dying from breast cancer in the five years after an early diagnosis has fallen from 14% to 5% since the 1990s, according to a recent study from the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, that was published in the British Medical Journal.
For those diagnosed between the years 2010 and 2015, more than six in 10 women had a 3% or less risk of dying within five years.
“In our study, we were able to show that the five-year risk of dying from breast cancer had reduced during the past 20 years for nearly every group of women we studied,” she told Fox News Digital.
The researchers analyzed data from over 512,000 women in England who had been diagnosed with early breast cancer between 1993 and 2015 and who were initially treated with surgery, said a press release announcing the findings.
“Our study is good news for the great majority of women diagnosed with early breast cancer today because their prognosis has improved so much,” the researchers said in the press release.
“Most of them can expect to become long-term cancer survivors.”
“We knew that prognosis after a diagnosis is better now than it was in the past, but we didn’t know how much better.”
“The idea is to catch the cancer early, which improves mortality, but also morbidity,” she told Fox News Digital. “That’s why, in the United States, there was a recent change in guidelines, and now screening mammography for average-risk women begins at age 40 (previously 50). This will save many lives.”
The decline in deaths has not been seen in very rare, aggressive and rapidly growing breast cancers, noted Estrin.
“These tend to happen in younger women, those with genetic mutations and Black women,” she told Fox News Digital.
Women who had other types of treatments to reduce the size of cancer tumors, those with multiple types of cancer and women whose cancer had already spread were excluded.
She did flag some caveats, however.
Looking at the number of women diagnosed during each five-year time frame, Simmons pointed out the sharp increase.
“We’re talking about a doubling of the number of node-negative cancers diagnosed,” she said.
Meanwhile, the node-positive cancers — “the more aggressive cancers, the disease that really needs treatment” — remained relatively stable, Simmons noted.
An estimated 43,700 U.S. women are expected to die from breast cancer in 2023, according to statistics from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.