New figures have shown the number of cancers found through breast screening has risen by almost a third in the last five years.

In 2007-08, a total of 1,378 cancers were discovered through screening in women of all ages, compared with 1,067 five years ago - a rise of 29 per cent. NHS statistics show the increase may be due, in part, to a phased extension of the age range for routine invitation, which in 2003 broadened from 50-64 to 50-70 years old.

About three-quarters of women took up an invitation to attend screening in 2007-08 - which was generally in line with the previous years. The statistics show that in the past three years, all health boards continued to meet the target of at least 70 per cent of women being invited to get screened.

The proportion of cancers diagnosed “pre-operatively” has increased from 67.7 per cent to 96.2 per cent since 1997.

Due to improvements in biopsy techniques over this period, 96.2 per cent of women screened who have a breast cancer were diagnosed by radiological biopsy at their screening centre, rather than needing a diagnosis through surgery.

“The number of women requiring two operations, diagnostic as well as therapeutic, has been significantly reduced,” the NHS report added.