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Breast cancer screening rates across the EU

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Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and a leading cause of female mortality in the EU. Prevention is key to lowering the impact of the disease and reducing mortality rates, however, the COVID-19 pandemic had a great impact on preventive healthcare and many screening programs were impacted across EU hospitals and healthcare units. This must be taken into account when analysing data for 2021. 

In 2021, the top three countries with the highest breast cancer screening rates for women aged 50 to 69 years, who had received a mammography within the previous two years, were the Nordic EU countries: Denmark (83.0%), Finland (82.2%) and Sweden (80.0%). Malta (77.8%) and Slovenia (77.2%) followed closely behind. At the other end of the range, the lowest breast cancer screening rates were registered in Bulgaria (20.6%), Cyprus (24.6%), Slovakia (25.5%), Hungary (29.8%) and Latvia (30.8%).

Compared with 2011, breast cancer screening rates increased in 6 of the 20 EU countries with available data, with the largest increases observed in Malta (+26.9 percentage points (pp)), Lithuania (+12.9 pp) and Estonia (+7.7 pp). In 13 EU countries, breast cancer screening rates decreased between 2011 and 2021. Decreases exceeding 10.0 pp were observed in Luxembourg (-16.3 pp), Ireland (-12.1 pp) and Hungary (-10.6 pp). 

Bar chart: Breast cancer screening, women aged 50 to 69 years, %, 2011 and 2021

Source dataset: hlth_ps_prev

Greece recorded the highest availability of mammography machines

In 2021, the highest availability of mammography units (machines designed exclusively for taking mammograms) per 100 000 inhabitants for women aged 50-69 years, was recorded in Greece (7.1 units) and Cyprus (5.9 units). The rate of mammography units was also high in Belgium (3.6), Italy (3.4) and Croatia (3.3). By contrast, the lowest availability was observed in Germany (0.5 units), France (0.7), Romania (0.9), and Poland (1.0), followed by Luxembourg, Czechia and Estonia (all with 1.1 units per 100 000 inhabitants).

The largest increases between 2011 and 2021 in the availability of mammography units per 100 000 inhabitants were recorded in Greece (+1.6 units), Cyprus and Bulgaria (both +1.2). By contrast, the availability of these units decreased in 9 out of the 24 EU countries with data available. The largest decreases were registered in Malta (-1.0), Luxembourg (-0.5), Slovenia, Poland and Denmark (all -0.3 units per 100 000 inhabitants).

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Bar chart: Availability of mammography units, per 100 000 inhabitants, 2011 and 2021

Source dataset: hlth_rs_medim

More information

Methodological notes

For breast cancer screening rates:

  • Programme-based data. The rate shown is the proportion of women aged 50 to 69 years who received a mammography within the previous two years (or according to the specific screening frequency recommended in each country). This is shown as a proportion of women eligible for an organised screening programme. Data for Greece, Romania, Spain and Portugal were not available.
  • Denmark: 2012 data instead of 2011.
  • Germany and Finland: 2021 data are estimate.
  • Sweden:  women aged 40–74 years; screening within the previous 18 to 24 months; 2011 data not available.
  • Malta: in 2011 women aged 50–59 years.
  • The Netherlands: in 2021 women aged 49–69 years.
  • Ireland: age group has been changing from 50–64 years to 50–69 years; 2021 data are provisional.
  • Estonia: in 2011 women aged 50–62 years.
  • Belgium: 2020 data instead of 2021.
  • France and Luxembourg: 2021 data are provisional.
  • Austria: 2015 data instead of 2011.
  • Poland: 2011 data not available.
  • Slovakia: women aged 40–69 years.
  • Cyprus: excludes screening in the private sector.
  • Bulgaria: 2011 data not available; 2017 instead of 2021

For mammography units:

  • Data not available for the Netherlands.
  • Belgium and Finland: 2020 data instead of 2021.
  • Croatia: 2012 data instead of 2011.
  • Malta, Czechia and Poland: break in series.
  • Latvia: 2021 data includes medical and diagnostic laboratories.
  • Austria, Estonia and France: 2013 data instead of 2011.
  • Spain and Portugal:  2021 data are provisional.
  • Ireland: 2018 data instead of 2021.
  • Hungary: 2017 data instead of 2021.
  • Sweden and Germany: 2011 data not available.
  • Portugal, France and Germany: includes data from hospitals only

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