Between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2016, we studied the incidence, management and outcome of high-risk breast lesions in a consecutive series of 376,519 screens of women who received biennial screening mammography. During the 6-year period covered by the study, the proportion of women who underwent core needle biopsy (CNB) after recall remained fairly stable, ranging from 39.2% to 48.1% (mean: 44.2%, 5,212/11,783), whereas the proportion of high-risk lesions at CNB (i.e., flat epithelial atypia, atypical ductal hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ and papillary lesions) gradually increased from 3.2% (25/775) in 2011 to 9.5% (86/901) in 2016 (p < 0.001). The mean proportion of high-risk lesions at CNB that were subsequently treated with diagnostic surgical excision was 51.4% (169/329) and varied between 41.0% and 64.3% through the years, but the excision rate for high-risk lesions per 1,000 screens and per 100 recalls increased from 0.25 (2011) to 0.70 (2016; p < 0.001) and from 0.81 (2011) to 2.50 (2016; p < 0.001), respectively. The proportion of all diagnostic surgical excisions showing in situ or invasive breast cancer was 29.0% (49/169) and varied from 22.2% (8/36) in 2014 to 38.5% (5/13) in 2011. In conclusion, the proportion of high-risk lesions at CNB tripled in a 6-year period, with a concomitant increased excision rate for these lesions. As the proportion of surgical excisions showing in situ or invasive breast cancer did not increase, a rising number of screened women underwent invasive surgical excision with benign outcome. © 2019 The Authors. International Journal of Cancer published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of UICC.