Researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark have said results from tests showed cancer screening programmes could lead to ‘overdiagnosis'.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said: ‘Screening for cancer may lead to earlier detection of lethal cancers but also detects harmless ones that will not cause death or symptoms.'
The story has led to headlines including ‘The breast cancer victims having ‘needless treatment'' in the Daily Mail and ‘Third of breast cancer ‘harmless'' on the BBC Health website.
However, the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes has spoken out against the research. Prof Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes said: ‘One in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer through the NHS Breast Screening Programme would not have had the cancer diagnosed if they had not gone for screening.'
She added: ‘However, thanks to screening, one extra woman's life will be saved for every 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer. These statistics are based upon rigorous analysis of the NHS Breast Cancer Screening Programme's statistics - almost 20 years worth of data.'
Hanover is retained by the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes to provide its press office function and briefed the print media yesterday with regards to the story. It is also currently speaking to broadcast media outlets today in reaction to the story.
Valerie Beral, chair of the independent advisory committee on breast screening appeared on the Today programme this morning. She is also interviewing on other broadcast outlets alongside Professor Patnick today.