Just 71 per cent of women took up invitations for breast cancer screening last year, the lowest level for a decade.

Screening uptake among women in England aged 50 to 70 was down 1 per cent in 2016-17 compared to the previous year.

The figure is the lowest in 10 years – in 2007, 73.6 per cent of women attended, according to data from NHS Digital.

This comes after research today showed the UK is not keeping up with the rest of Europe on breast cancer survival, and charities called the decline “worrying”.

Around one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Screening aims to find cancer when it is too small to see or feel and is performed with a mammogram X-ray.

While there are some risks associated with this type of screening, it is routinely offered to all women aged 50 to 70 every three years.

The new data shows that the number of women invited for screening has increased by more than half a million in the last decade and last year 2.59 million were invited for a mammogram.

Of these, 1.84 million attended a screening.

The figures show that uptake was highest in the East Midlands where three-quarters of women attended screening.

It was lowest in London where 64 per cent attended.

The report on breast screening uptake in England shows that 18,402 cancers were detected in 2016-17.

Of all women with cancers detected through screening in 2016-17, 41.5 per cent had invasive but small cancers, which are less than 15mm in diameter and are usually too small to detect by hand.

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: “In light of today’s troubling news that breast cancer survival in the UK is not keeping up with the rest of Europe, it’s worrying to see screening uptake in England at its lowest level in 10 years.

“Our concern is women may not be empowered to get the support and information they need to make a decision that’s right for them.”

She said women should be alert for any changes in their breast tissue, not just lumps, but added: “Mammograms remain the most effective tool at our disposal for detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible stage.”