BREAST cancer screening rates in Scotland have continued to dip, new figures show, with four health boards failing to meet minimum acceptable take-up levels.

A total of 71.2% of eligible women attended for routine screening in the three years covering 2015-16 to 2017-18. That is down from 71.7% in the previous three-year period, and lower than the 74.9% achieved in 2008-9 to 2010-11.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman welcomed that “uptake rates continue to exceed the Healthcare Improvement Scotland clinical standard for uptake of 70%”.

However, four health boards – NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Lothian and NHS Fife – failed to meet the minimum acceptable uptake standard of having at least 70% of women aged between 50 and 70 years old take part in screening.

In Glasgow, where the rate was lowest, 65.8% of women attended, while less than two-thirds of women did so in the most deprived parts of Scotland. ISD Scotland data covering the years 2016-17 and 2017-18 showed just 58.5% of females in these communities attended, compared to 79.1% of women in the least deprived areas.

The report said: “Ideally eight out of 10 women invited for screening would attend their appointment, this is the achievable standard with the minimum being seven in 10 women.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “To ensure we keep pace with increasing population and changes in technology and lifestyles, a new review of breast screening will look at everything from invitation processes, technology and future requirements to further increase uptake of screening.

“We are also investing £5 million in national cancer screening programmes, including breast, to encourage those who are eligible to take up their invite. This funding is targeted towards increasing participation in areas of deprivation and other areas where uptake is lowest.

“We know that the earlier a cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat which is why we launched our £42m Detect Cancer Early (DCE) Programme in 2012. DCE’s latest campaign – Survivors – highlighted the fact that more people are surviving cancer than ever before and getting checked early plays a big part.”

The report showed there had been a slight increase in the cancer detection rate for women who had been screened. With 84.6% of cancer cases in women in 2017-18 being invasive breast cancer, it also stressed the importance of early detection.

More than half of the breast cancer cases found that year were detected when the tumour was less was 15mm.

The report stated: “Such small tumours are unlikely to be detected by physical examination, highlighting the importance of screening in the early detection of breast cancer as picking up small cancers is one of the key methods to achieve the aim of reducing deaths due to breast cancer.”

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said reversing the fall in screening rates must be a priority for Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

The LibDems’ Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “It’s clear the Scottish Government needs to do more to reverse this worrying trend and encourage people to take the time out of busy days to take up these tests.”