BREAST cancer screening from the age of 40 would save 400 lives a year in the UK, a study suggests.

The procedure could slash the odds of dying from the disease before 50 by a quarter, and save one life for every 1,000 people checked.

Currently women aged 50 to 70 are invited for a mammogram every three years.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London say lowering the age would save lives with little risk of overdiagnosis.

From 1990-97, 160,000 Brits aged 39 to 41 were allocated to annual scans or made to wait for usual checks at 50.

Analysis of the 23-year follow-up data reveals screening women aged 40-49 slashed the risk of dying in the first ten years by 25 per cent.

The total years of life saved from breast cancer was estimated at 11.5 years for every 1,000 women invited to earlier screening.

Study leader Prof Stephen Duffy said: “The benefit is seen mostly in the first ten years, but the reduction in mortality persists long-term.

“We screen more thoroughly than in the 1990s, so the benefits may even be greater than in this study.”

Others said the research did not consider cost-effectiveness.

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