The age-standardised participation rate of women in the age range 50–74 years increased from 53.2% in 2014–2015 to 54.3% in 2015–2016.4,6 Among women in the previous target age range of 50–69 years, the age-standardised participation rate had fluctuated between approximately 51.7% and 57.6% since 1996–1997, but increased from 53.7% in 2013–2014 to 54.6% in 2015–2016.4,6
One of the reasons identified by the Department of Health in 2009 for the relatively stable participation rate over time for women aged 50–69 years is a potential shortfall in screening capacity – especially of the radiography workforce – and increasing demand from population growth within the target age range. 3
A trend for declining age-specific participation rates had been apparent for females aged in their 50s since the early 2000s, although the most recent data indicates a reversal of this trend. By contrast, participation rates for females aged in their 60s remained relatively stable over that time. The most recent data (2015–2016) for each age group shows an increased participation rate compared to 2014–2015, with the largest increase occurring among females aged 70–74 years. This is due in part to the phasing in of targeting resources for this age group, as well as established screening habits, and potentially lesser work and family commitments.4,6
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Trend data are only available for females aged 50–69 years. From 1996–1997 to 2015–2016, the age-standardised participation rate for Indigenous females aged 50–69 years increased by more than 50% (from 25.0% in 1996–1997 to 39.4% in 2015–2016). Over the same period, the participation rate for non- Indigenous females aged 50–69 years increased from 39.8% to 54.6%.4,6
Remoteness and socioeconomic status (SES)
Participation rates by remoteness area are available for the 2-year periods 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 for women in the target age range 50–69 years, and for the 2-year periods 2014–2015 and 2015–2016 for women in the target age range 50–74 years. Across these periods, participation rates have been consistently lowest in Very Remote areas, and highest in Outer Regional areas.
Participation rates by socioeconomic status are also available for the 2-year periods 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 for women in the target age range 50–69 years, and for the 2-year periods 2014–2015 and 2015–2016 for women in target age range 50–74 years. Across these periods, there were small differences in participation rates by socioeconomic status. Nonetheless, participation rates were consistently lower in the lowest SES area (SES 1).
Participation rates and breast cancer control in Australia
Since the introduction of BreastScreen Australia, the age-standardised incidence rate for female breast cancer has increased (from 100.4 per 100,000 in 1991, to 125.0 per 100,000 in 2014, see Cancer incidence). During this period, there has been a decrease in the age-standardised breast cancer mortality rate (from 31.3 per 100,000 in 1991 to 20.1 per 100,000 in 2015 – a 36% reduction – see Cancer mortality) and an increase in 5-year survival rate (from 85.9% in 1995–1999 to 92.5% in 2010–14).2 In conjunction with other breast cancer awareness programs, BreastScreen Australia has increased numbers of breast cancers detected at an early stage, leading to better treatment and mortality outcomes.1,3