Thousands of women could be putting their lives at risk by ignoring invitations for breast cancer screening, a charity has warned. NHS figures for England show that more than one in four women do not attend screening, which is aimed at those aged between 50 and 70. In 2008, 1.7 million women (73%) attended screening out of the 2.2 million who were sent an invitation. In January, the number of women in England newly invited for screening who actually attended fell below 70% for the first time. Experts predict that 600 extra lives in England could be saved each year if all women accepted their invitations. Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer information, said: "Screening saves lives, so it's extremely worrying to see that the percentage of women going for screening is dropping. "Mammograms pick up the very early signs of breast cancer when it's much easier to treat. "Even though the screening programme saves around 1,400 lives each year, we predict that if there was 100% attendance, hundreds more lives could be saved. "Our research has found that screening has reduced breast cancer death rates by up to a quarter in women within the screening age range, while international research found that for every 500 women screened, one life will be saved." Professor Stephen Duffy, Cancer Research UK's professor of cancer screening at Queen Mary, University of London, said: "Most women who go for screening are reassured to be told that they don't have breast cancer. "But, it's still important for all women who are invited to attend. "For the minority who do get breast cancer, catching it early through screening means women are more likely to be successfully treated and less likely to need a mastectomy." Former airline stewardess Barbara Gibbs, from Berkshire, was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago after a second mammogram. The 68-year-old said: "After surgery I was given six weeks of radiotherapy and then put on (cancer drug) tamoxifen for five years. "I was lucky because my cancer was caught early, even though I had no lump and no symptoms. "I wouldn't be alive today if I hadn't gone for that mammogram."