Death rates from breast cancer fell faster in the UK than any other major European country, experts have claimed.

Research from 30 countries found large drops in the number of women dying, particularly in the UK and Iceland.

Typically, death rates from breast cancer fell by almost a fifth across the countries, ranging from a 45% reduction in Iceland to a 17% increase in Romania.

England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had the second, fourth, and fifth largest decreases of 35%, 30%and 29%, respectively, coming after Iceland in first place. Luxembourg came in third place with 34%.

In France, Finland, and Sweden, death rates decreased by 11%, 12% and 16% in comparison.

The study contradicts claims that survival rates in the UK are worse than in other western European countries. Experts said today the latest research was much more reliable.

The study, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), was led by a team at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

The authors concluded: “Changes in breast cancer mortality after 1988 varied widely between European countries, and the UK is among the countries with the largest reductions.”

They said claims that the UK’s breast cancer survival rates were among the worst were misleading.