In this article, we discuss the most common epidemiological methods used for evaluating the ability of mammography screening to decrease the risk of breast cancer death in general populations (effectiveness). Case-control studies usually find substantial effectiveness. However when breast cancer mortality decreases for reasons unrelated to screening, the case-control design may attribute to screening mortality reductions due to other causes. Studies based on incidence-based mortality have obtained contrasted results compatible with modest to considerable effectiveness, probably because of differences in study design and statistical analysis. In areas where screening has been widespread for a long time, the incidence of advanced breast cancer should be decreasing, which in turn would translate into reduced mortality. However, no or modest declines in the incidence of advanced breast cancer has been observed in these areas. Breast cancer mortality should decrease more rapidly in areas with early introduction of screening than in areas with late introduction of screening. Nonetheless, no difference in breast mortality trends has been observed between areas with early or late screening start. When effectiveness is assessed using incidence-based mortality studies, or the monitoring of advanced cancer incidence, or trends in mortality, the ecological bias is an inherent limitation that is not easy to control. Minimization of this bias requires data over long periods of time, careful selection of populations being compared and availability of data on major confounding factors. If case-control studies seem apparently more adequate for evaluating screening effectiveness, this design has its own limitations and results must be viewed with caution.
See related Opinion article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/106 and Commentary http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/164
breast cancer; case-control; effectiveness; epidemiology; incidence; mortality; screening
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of breast density on breast cancer (BC) mortality in a mammography screening programme. The cohort included 48 052 women participating in mammography screening in Copenhagen, Denmark, where biennial screening is offered to women aged 50–69 years. We collected information for the years 1991–2001 on screening outcome, incident BCs (screen-, interval-, and later detected), and BC deaths. Breast density was dichotomised into fatty (F) and mixed/dense (M/D) breasts. Screening sensitivity was measured as the odds ratio of interval versus screen-detected cancer for dense versus F breasts. Poisson regression was used to estimate the ratios for BC incidence, case fatality, and mortality between women with M/D and F breasts. For women with M/D breasts, the odds ratio of an interval cancer was 1.62 (95% confidence interval, CI, 1.14–2.30), and the age-adjusted rate ratios were 2.45 (95% CI 2.14–2.81) for BC incidence, 0.60 (95% CI 0.43–0.84) for case fatality, and 1.78 (95% CI 1.17–2.72) for BC mortality. The study shows that BC in women with M/D breasts is more frequent, but on average less severe, than in women with F breasts.
malignant neoplasms; breast; mammography; screening; mortality; breast density
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women and a leading cause of death from cancer in women in Europe. Although breast cancer incidence is on the rise worldwide, breast cancer mortality over the past 25 years has been stable or decreasing in some countries and a fall in breast cancer mortality rates in most European countries in the 1990s was reported by several studies, in contrast, in Greece have not reported these favourable trends. In Greece, the age-standardised incidence and mortality rate for breast cancer per 100.000 in 2006 was 81,8 and 21,7 and although it is lower than most other countries in Europe, the fall in breast cancer mortality that observed has not been as great as in other European countries. There is no national strategy for screening in this country. This study reports on the use of mammography among middle-aged women in rural Crete and investigates barriers to mammography screening encountered by women and their primary care physicians.
Design: Semi-structured individual interviews. Setting and participants: Thirty women between 45–65 years of age, with a mean age of 54,6 years, and standard deviation 6,8 from rural areas of Crete and 28 qualified primary care physicians, with a mean age of 44,7 years and standard deviation 7,0 serving this rural population. Main outcome measure: Qualitative thematic analysis.
Most women identified several reasons for not using mammography. These included poor knowledge of the benefits and indications for mammography screening, fear of pain during the procedure, fear of a serious diagnosis, embarrassment, stress while anticipating the results, cost and lack of physician recommendation. Physicians identified difficulties in scheduling an appointment as one reason women did not use mammography and both women and physicians identified distance from the screening site, transportation problems and the absence of symptoms as reasons for non-use.
Women are inhibited from participating in mammography screening in rural Crete. The provision of more accessible screening services may improve this. However physician recommendation is important in overcoming women's inhibitions. Primary care physicians serving rural areas need to be aware of barriers preventing women from attending mammography screening and provide women with information and advice in a sensitive way so women can make informed decisions regarding breast caner screening.
Incidence-based mortality modelling comparing the risk of breast cancer death in screened and unscreened women in nine Swedish counties has suggested a 39% risk reduction in women 40 to 69 years old after introduction of mammography screening in the 1980s and 1990s.
We evaluated changes in breast cancer mortality in the same nine Swedish counties using a model approach based on official Swedish breast cancer mortality statistics, robust to effects of over-diagnosis and treatment changes. Using mortality data from the NordCan database from 1974 until 2003, we estimated the change in breast cancer mortality before and after introduction of mammography screening in at least the 13 years that followed screening start.
Breast mortality decreased by 16% (95% CI: 9 to 22%) in women 40 to 69, and by 11% (95% CI: 2 to 20%) in women 40 to 79 years of age.
Without individual data it is impossible to completely separate the effects of improved treatment and health service organisation from that of screening, which would bias our results in favour of screening. There will also be some contamination of post-screening mortality from breast cancer diagnosed prior to screening, beyond our attempts to adjust for delayed benefit. This would bias against screening. However, our estimates from publicly available data suggest considerably lower benefits than estimates based on comparison of screened versus non-screened women.
Favourable outcomes of breast cancer screening trials in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in the launch of population-based service screening programmes in many Western countries. We investigated whether improvements in mammography and treatment modalities have had an influence on the effectiveness of breast cancer screening from 1975 to 2008.
In Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 55 529 women received an invitation for screening between 1975 and 2008. We designed a case–referent study to evaluate the impact of mammographic screening on breast cancer mortality over time from 1975 to 2008. A total number of 282 breast cancer deaths were identified, and 1410 referents aged 50–69 were sampled from the population invited for screening. We estimated the effectiveness by calculating the odds ratio (OR) indicating the breast cancer death rate for screened vs unscreened women.
The breast cancer death rate in the screened group over the complete period was 35% lower than in the unscreened group (OR=0.65; 95% CI=0.49–0.87). Analysis by calendar year showed an increasing effectiveness from a 28% reduction in breast cancer mortality in the period 1975–1991 (OR=0.72; 95% CI=0.47–1.09) to 65% in the period 1992–2008 (OR=0.35; 95% CI=0.19–0.64).
Our results show an increasingly strong reduction in breast cancer mortality over time because of mammographic screening.
breast cancer; breast cancer mortality; screening; case–referent study
Screening mammography has been shown to be effective for reducing breast cancer mortality. According to screening theory, the first expected consequence of mammography screening is the detection of the disease at earlier stages and this diagnostic anticipation changes the population incidence curve, with an observed increase in incidence rates at earlier ages. It is unreasonable to expect that the age-specific incidence will ever return to pre-screening levels or to anticipate a significant reduction of incidence at older ages immediately after the first screening round. The interpretation of incidence trends, especially in the short term, is difficult. Methodology for quantification of overdiagnosis and statistical modelling based on service screening data is not well developed and few population-based studies are available. The overtreatment issue is discussed in terms of appropriateness of effective treatment considering the question of chemotherapy in very early stages and the use of breast conserving surgery.
The aim of this study was to analyse breast cancer incidence and mortality in Tyrol from 1970 to 2006, namely after performing more than a decade of opportunistic mammography screening and just before piloting an organised screening programme. Our investigation was conducted on a population level.
To study time trends in breast cancer incidence and mortality, we applied the age-period-cohort model by Poisson regression to the official mortality data covering more than three decades from 1970 to 2006 and to the incidence data ranging from 1988 to 2006. In addition, for incidence data we analysed data on breast cancer staging and compared these with EU guidelines.
For the analysis of time trend in breast cancer mortality in age groups 40-79, an age-period-cohort model fits well and shows for years 2002-2006 a statistically significant reduction of 26% (95% CI 13%-36%) in breast cancer mortality as compared to 1992-1996.
We see only slight non-significant increases in breast cancer incidence. For the past five years, incidence data show a 10% proportion of in situ cases, and of 50% for cases in stages II+.
The opportunistic breast cancer screening programme in Tyrol has only in part exploited the mortality reduction known for organised screening programmes. There seems to be potential for further improvement, and we recommend that an organised screening programme and a detailed screening database be introduced to collect all information needed to analyse the quality indicators suggested by the EU guidelines.
Although breast cancer screening has been shown to work in randomised trials, there is a need to evaluate service screening programmes to ensure that they are delivering the benefit indicated by the trials. We carried out a case–control study to investigate the effect of mammography service screening, in the NHS breast screening programme, on breast cancer mortality in the East Anglian region of the UK. Cases were deaths from breast cancer in women diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70 years, following the instigation of the East Anglia Breast Screening Programme in 1989. The controls were women (two per case) who had not died of breast cancer, from the same area, matched by date of birth to the cases. Each control was known to be alive at the time of death of her matched case. All women were known to the breast screening programme and were invited, at least once, to be screened. There were 284 cases and 568 controls. The odds ratio (OR) for risk of death from breast cancer in women who attended at least one routine screen compared to those who did not attend was 0.35 (CI: 0.24, 0.50). Adjusting for self-selection bias gave an estimate of the breast cancer mortality reduction associated with invitation to screening of 35% (OR=0.65, 95% CI: 0.48, 0.88). The effect of actually being screened was a 48% breast cancer mortality reduction (OR=0.52, 95% CI: 0.32, 0.84). The results suggest that the National Breast Screening Programme in East Anglia is achieving a reduction in breast cancer deaths, which is at least consistent with the results from the randomised controlled trials of mammographic screening.
breast cancer mortality; screening; case–control
To estimate the absolute numbers of breast cancer deaths prevented and the absolute numbers of tumours overdiagnosed in mammographic screening for breast cancer at ages 50–69 years.
The Swedish Two-County randomized trial of mammographic screening for breast cancer, and the UK Breast Screening Programme in England, ages 50–69 years.
We estimated the absolute numbers of deaths avoided and additional cases diagnosed in the study group (active study population) of the Swedish Two-County Trial, by comparison with the control group (passive study population). We estimated the same quantities for the mortality and incidence rates in England (1974–2004 and 1974–2003, respectively). We used Poisson regression for statistical inference.
A substantial and significant reduction in breast cancer mortality was associated with screening in both the Two-County Trial (P < 0.001) and the screening programme in England (P < 0.001). The absolute benefits were estimated as 8.8 and 5.7 breast cancer deaths prevented per 1000 women screened for 20 years starting at age 50 from the Two-County Trial and screening programme in England, respectively. The corresponding estimated numbers of cases overdiagnosed per 1000 women screened for 20 years were, respectively, 4.3 and 2.3 per 1000.
The benefit of mammographic screening in terms of lives saved is greater in absolute terms than the harm in terms of overdiagnosis. Between 2 and 2.5 lives are saved for every overdiagnosed case.
Objectives To evaluate the effect on breast cancer mortality during the first 10 years of the mammography service screening programme that was introduced in Copenhagen in 1991.
Design Cohort study.
Setting The mammography service screening programme in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Participants All women ever invited to mammography screening in the first 10 years of the programme. Historical, national, and historical national control groups were used.
Main outcome measures The main outcome measure was breast cancer mortality. We compared breast cancer mortality in the study group with rates in the control groups, adjusting for age, time period, and region.
Results Breast cancer mortality in the screening period was reduced by 25% (relative risk 0.75, 95% confidence interval 0.63 to 0.89) compared with what we would expect in the absence of screening. For women actually participating in screening, breast cancer mortality was reduced by 37%.
Conclusions In the Copenhagen programme, breast cancer mortality was reduced without severe negative side effects for the participants.
STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to demonstrate the benefits of breast cancer screening on mortality. DESIGN--The study was an evaluation of a breast cancer screening programme by means of different approaches: (1) a case-control study, breast cancer deaths being the cases; (2) comparing the numbers of breast cancer deaths in screened and unscreened women; (3) comparing breast cancer mortality before and after start of the programme; (4) comparing breast cancer mortality in different large cities; (5) comparing screening activity with mortality reduction. SETTING--The setting was a breast cancer screening programme in the city of Utrecht, the DOM project, for women aged 50-64 years old at intake, birth cohort 1911-1925. The programme started in 1974, and there were five screening rounds up to 1984. Participation rate in the first round was 72% (14,697 women). MAIN RESULTS--(1) Screening was protective against dying from breast cancer, odds ratio 0.52, with a stronger effect in older women and no evidence of confounding; (2) risk ratio of dying from breast cancer for women in the response group was the same as the odds ratio, 0.52; (3) breast cancer death rate after the start of the project was nearly 20% lower than before the project started; after correcting for women who could not have benefited from screening the reduction was 33%; (4) a rise in breast cancer mortality in birth cohort 1911-1925 seen in other large cities without a screening programme due to aging of the cohort was not seen in the city of Utrecht; (5) mortality reduction followed the screening activity with a time lag of approximately 5 years. CONCLUSIONS--Early diagnosis of breast cancer by mammography reduces breast cancer mortality in women 50-64 years old at intake; different approaches to the evaluation of the project give different estimates of the screening effect, making clear that the effect depends on the intensity of the programme.
Background: Breast cancer mortality is declining in many Western countries. If mammography screening contributed to decreases in mortality, then decreases in advanced breast cancer incidence should also be noticeable.
Patients and methods: We assessed incidence trends of advanced breast cancer in areas where mammography screening is practiced for at least 7 years with 60% minimum participation and where population-based registration of advanced breast cancer existed. Through a systematic Medline search, we identified relevant published data for Australia, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UK and the USA. Data from cancer registries in Northern Ireland, Scotland, the USA (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER), and Connecticut), and Tasmania (Australia) were available for the study. Criterion for advanced cancer was the tumour size, and if not available, spread to regional/distant sites.
Results: Age-adjusted annual percent changes (APCs) were stable or increasing in ten areas (APCs of −0.5% to 1.7%). In four areas (Firenze, the Netherlands, SEER and Connecticut) there were transient downward trends followed by increases back to pre-screening rates.
Conclusions: In areas with widespread sustained mammographic screening, trends in advanced breast cancer incidence do not support a substantial role for screening in the decrease in mortality.
breast cancer; cancer registry; incidence; screening; stage
The aim of the current study was to examine impacts of the Finnish breast cancer (BC) screening programme on the population-based incidence and mortality rates. The programme has been historically targeted to a rather narrow age band, mainly women of ages 50–59 years.
The study was based on the information on breast cancer during 1971–2003 from the files of the Finnish Cancer Registry. Incidence, cause-specific mortality as well as incidence-based (refined) mortality from BC were analysed with Poisson regression. Age-specific incidence and routine cause-specific mortality were estimated for the most recent five-year period available; incidence-based mortality, respectively, for the whole steady state of the programme, 1992–2003.
There was excess BC incidence with actual screening ages; incidence in ages 50–69 was increased 8% (95 CI 2.9–13.4). There was an increasing temporal tendency in the incidence of localised BC; and, respectively, a decrease in that of non-localised BC. The latter was most consistent in age groups where screening had been on-going several years or eventually after the last screen. The refined mortality rate from BC diagnosed in ages 50–69 was decreased with -11.1% (95% CI -19.4, -2.1).
The current study demonstrates that BC screening in Finland is effective in reducing mortality rates from breast cancers, even though the impact on the population level is smaller than expected based on the results from randomised trials among women screened in age 50 to 69. This may be explained by the rather young age group targeted in our country. Consideration whether to targeted screening up to age 69 is warranted.
Breast cancer mortality has experienced important changes over the last century. Breast cancer occurs in the presence of other competing risks which can influence breast cancer incidence and mortality trends. The aim of the present work is: 1) to assess the impact of breast cancer deaths among mortality from all causes in Catalonia (Spain), by age and birth cohort and 2) to estimate the risk of death from other causes than breast cancer, one of the inputs needed to model breast cancer mortality reduction due to screening or therapeutic interventions.
The multi-decrement life table methodology was used. First, all-cause mortality probabilities were obtained by age and cohort. Then mortality probability for breast cancer was subtracted from the all-cause mortality probabilities to obtain cohort life tables for causes other than breast cancer. These life tables, on one hand, provide an estimate of the risk of dying from competing risks, and on the other hand, permit to assess the impact of breast cancer deaths on all-cause mortality using the ratio of the probability of death for causes other than breast cancer by the all-cause probability of death.
There was an increasing impact of breast cancer on mortality in the first part of the 20th century, with a peak for cohorts born in 1945–54 in the 40–49 age groups (for which approximately 24% of mortality was due to breast cancer). Even though for cohorts born after 1955 there was only information for women under 50, it is also important to note that the impact of breast cancer on all-cause mortality decreased for those cohorts.
We have quantified the effect of removing breast cancer mortality in different age groups and birth cohorts. Our results are consistent with US findings. We also have obtained an estimate of the risk of dying from competing-causes mortality, which will be used in the assessment of the effect of mammography screening on breast cancer mortality in Catalonia.
STUDY OBJECTIVE: In many countries, cancer registries cover only a small part of the national population. Cancer incidence for the rest of the country has therefore to be estimated. This can be done from mortality data using the relation between incidence and mortality observed in the cancer registry areas. Such an approach was used to study geographical variation and trend of colorectal and breast cancer incidence in France where 10% of the national population is covered by cancer registries. DESIGN: This study applies the incidence/mortality ratios of cancer registry areas to regional mortality data to obtain an estimation of cancer incidence at a given point in time. Age and period effects are included in the statistical models. MAIN RESULTS: The incidence estimations are given for 21 administrative regions and three time points (1985, 1990, 1995). The European standardised incidence rates for breast cancer ranged from 86.8 to 128.8. For colorectal cancer, these rates ranged from 48.2 to 79.6 for men, and from 32.5 to 48.8 for women. Breast cancer incidence has increased considerably between 1985 and 1995 with a higher increase in the north than in the south of France. The incidence of colorectal cancer has also increased, albeit to a lesser extent. CONCLUSION: The incidence estimation method proposed leads to regional incidence rates that are useful for planning health care services on a regional basis and may also be used to study regional differences in incidence. This method is useful when only partial incidence data are available.
Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of breast cancer screening requires estimates of the absolute risk of breast cancer, which is modified by various risk factors. Breast cancer incidence, and thus mortality, is altered by the occurrence of competing events. More accurate estimates of competing risks should improve the estimation of absolute risk of breast cancer and benefit from breast cancer screening, leading to more effective preventive, diagnostic, and treatment policies. We have previously described the effect of breast cancer risk factors on breast cancer incidence in the presence of competing risks. In this study, we investigate the association of the same risk factors with mortality as a competing event with breast cancer incidence.
We use data from the Canadian National Breast Screening Study, consisting of two randomized controlled trials, which included data on 39 risk factors for breast cancer. The participants were followed up for the incidence of breast cancer and mortality due to breast cancer and other causes. We stratified all-cause mortality into death from other types of cancer and death from non-cancer causes. We conducted separate analyses for cause-specific mortalities.
We found that “age at entry” is a significant factor for all-cause mortality, and cancer-specific and non-cancer mortality. “Menstruation length” and “number of live births” are significant factors for all-cause mortality, and cancer-specific mortality. “Ever noted lumps in right/left breasts” is a factor associated with all-cause mortality, and non-cancer mortality.
For proper estimation of absolute risk of the main event of interest common risk factors associated with competing events should be identified and considered.
Invasive breast cancer; Competing mortality; Cancer-specific mortality; Non-cancer mortality; Risk factors
Cervical cancer incidence and mortality statistics in Hong Kong during 1972–2001 were examined to estimate the potential number of cancer cases that can be averted and years of life saved after the launch of an organised, population-based cytologic screening recall programme in 2004 with projections to 2016. Incidence rates under the status quo of opportunistic screening were projected by an age–period–cohort model, using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. Modelled rates were translated into numbers of cancer cases and deaths using mid-year population figures and age–period-specific mortality to incidence ratios. We applied International Agency for Research on Cancer risk reduction estimates for different screening strategies to these base case figures to estimate the number of incident cancers potentially averted and years of life saved attributable to organised screening incremental to the current status quo. The estimated numbers of cases projected to be preventable by the maximum likelihood (Bayesian) approach from 2002 to 2016 were 4226 (4176), 3778 (3728) and 2334 (2287) with organised screening every 1, 3 and 5 years, compared to haphazard screening currently. Correspondingly, 33 000 (32 800), 29 500 (29 300) and 18 200 (17 900) years of life could potentially be saved.
cervical cancer; age–period–cohort; screening; maximum likelihood estimation; Bayesian methods; Hong Kong
In cancer screening, it is essential to undertake effective screening with appropriate methodology, which should be supported by evidence of a reduced mortality rate. At present, mammography is the only method for breast cancer screening with such evidence. However, mammography does not achieve sufficient accuracy in breasts with high density at ages below 50. Although ultrasonography achieves better accuracy in Breast Cancer detection even in dense breasts, the effectiveness has not been verified. We have planned a randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of ultrasonography in women aged 40–49, with a design to study 50 000 women with mammography and ultrasonography (intervention group), and 50 000 controls with mammography only (control group). The participants are scheduled to take second round screening with the same modality 2 years on. The primary endpoints are sensitivity and specificity, and the secondary endpoint is the rate of advanced breast cancers.
breast cancer screening; mammography; ultrasonography; randomized controlled trial
Objective To compare trends in breast cancer mortality within three pairs of neighbouring European countries in relation to implementation of screening.
Design Retrospective trend analysis.
Setting Three country pairs (Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) v Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands v Belgium and Flanders (Belgian region south of the Netherlands), and Sweden v Norway).
Data sources WHO mortality database on cause of death and data sources on mammography screening, cancer treatment, and risk factors for breast cancer mortality.
Main outcome measures Changes in breast cancer mortality calculated from linear regressions of log transformed, age adjusted death rates. Joinpoint analysis was used to identify the year when trends in mortality for all ages began to change.
Results From 1989 to 2006, deaths from breast cancer decreased by 29% in Northern Ireland and by 26% in the Republic of Ireland; by 25% in the Netherlands and by 20% in Belgium and 25% in Flanders; and by 16% in Sweden and by 24% in Norway. The time trend and year of downward inflexion were similar between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between the Netherlands and Flanders. In Sweden, mortality rates have steadily decreased since 1972, with no downward inflexion until 2006. Countries of each pair had similar healthcare services and prevalence of risk factors for breast cancer mortality but differing implementation of mammography screening, with a gap of about 10-15 years.
Conclusions The contrast between the time differences in implementation of mammography screening and the similarity in reductions in mortality between the country pairs suggest that screening did not play a direct part in the reductions in breast cancer mortality.
High participation rates are needed to ensure that breast cancer screening programs effectively reduce mortality. We identified the determinants of non-participation in a public breast cancer screening program.
In this case-control study, 274 women aged 50 to 64 years included in a population-based mammography screening program were personally interviewed. Socio-demographic characteristics, health beliefs, health service utilization, insurance coverage, prior mammography and other preventive activities were examined.
Of the 192 cases and 194 controls contacted, 101 and 173, respectively, were subsequently interviewed. Factors related to non-participation in the breast cancer screening program included higher education (odds ratio [OR] = 5.28; 95% confidence interval [CI95%] = 1.57–17.68), annual dental checks-ups (OR = 1.81; CI95%1.08–3.03), prior mammography at a private health center (OR = 7.27; CI95% 3.97–13.32), gynecologist recommendation of mammography (OR = 2.2; CI95%1.3–3.8), number of visits to a gynecologist (median visits by cases = 1.2, versus controls = 0.92, P = 0.001), and supplemental private insurance (OR = 5.62; CI95% = 3.28–9.6). Among women who had not received a prior mammogram or who had done so at a public center, perceived barriers were the main factors related to non-participation. Among women who had previously received mammograms at a private center, supplemental private health insurance also influenced non-participation. Benign breast symptoms increased the likelihood of participation.
Our data indicate that factors related to the type of insurance coverage (such as prior mammography at a private health center and supplemental private insurance) influenced non-participation in the screening program.
We have investigated factors affecting the probability that a woman with breast cancer participating in a mammographic screening programme will be diagnosed by the screen. Data from a large American case-control study, with subjects drawn from women participating in an annual screening programme, were used. During the screening programme, 409 cases were identified, the mode of diagnosis being screen detection for 331 and interval detection for 78. No significant relationships were found between mode of diagnosis and age, age at menarche, oral contraceptive use, age at first live birth, age at menopause or history of maternal breast cancer. There was a non-significant trend for particular mammographic patterns to be associated with interval detection. However relative risk of breast cancer and probability of interval detection were observed to increase about the time of the menopause. These results suggest that the 3 yearly mammography programme being introduced in the UK might be improved if an extra examination was included around the time of the menopause.
Screening for prostate cancer remains a contentious issue. As with other cancer screening programs, a key feature of the debate is verification of cancer-specific mortality reductions. Unfortunately the present evidence, two systematic reviews and six randomized controlled trials, have reported conflicting results. Furthermore, half of the studies are poor quality and the evidence is clouded by key weaknesses, including poor adherence to screening in the intervention arm or high rates of screening in the control arm. In high quality studies of prostate cancer screening (particularly prostate-specific antigen), in which actual compliance was anticipated in the study design, there is good evidence that prostate cancer mortality is reduced. The numbers needed to screen are at least as good as those of mammography for breast cancer and fecal occult blood testing for colorectal cancer. However, the risks associated with prostate cancer screening are considerable and must be weighed against the advantage of reduced cancer-specific mortality. Adverse events include 70% rate of false positives, important risks associated with prostate biopsy, and the serious consequences of prostate cancer treatment. The best evidence demonstrates prostate cancer screening will reduce prostate cancer mortality. It is time for the debate to move beyond this issue, and begin a well-informed discussion on the remaining complex issues associated with prostate cancer screening and appropriate management.
Objective To use data from two longstanding, population based screening programmes to study overdiagnosis in screening mammography.
Design Population based cohort study.
Setting Copenhagen municipality (from 1991) and Funen County (from 1993), Denmark.
Participants 57 763 women targeted by organised screening, aged 56-69 when the screening programmes started, and followed up to 2009.
Main outcome measures Overdiagnosis of breast cancer in women targeted by screening, assessed by relative risks compared with historical control groups from screening regions, national control groups from non-screening regions, and historical national control groups.
Results In total, 3279 invasive breast carcinomas and ductal carcinomas in situ occurred. The start of screening led to prevalence peaks in breast cancer incidence: relative risk 2.06 (95% confidence interval 1.64 to 2.59) for Copenhagen and 1.84 (1.46 to 2.32) for Funen. During subsequent screening rounds, relative risks were slightly above unity: 1.04 (0.85 to 1.27) for Copenhagen and 1.14 (0.98 to 1.32) for Funen. A compensatory dip was seen after the end of invitation to screening: relative risk 0.80 (0.65 to 0.98) for Copenhagen and 0.67 (0.55 to 0.81) for Funen during the first four years. The relative risk of breast cancer accumulated over the entire follow-up period was 1.06 (0.90 to 1.25) for Copenhagen and 1.01 (0.93 to 1.10) for Funen. Relative risks for participants corrected for selection bias were estimated to be 1.08 for Copenhagen and 1.02 for Funen; for participants followed for at least eight years after the end of screening, they were 1.05 and 1.01. A pooled estimate gave 1.040 (0.99 to 1.09) for all targeted women and 1.023 (0.97 to 1.08) for targeted women followed for at least eight years after the end of screening.
Conclusions On the basis of combined data from the two screening programmes, this study indicated that overdiagnosis most likely amounted to 2.3% (95% confidence interval −3% to 8%) in targeted women. Among participants, it was most likely 1-5%. At least eight years after the end of screening were needed to compensate for the excess incidence during screening.
A breast cancer screening programme (BCSP) was started in 21 districts in the Khanty-Mansiysky Autonomous Okrug—Ugra region from 7 February 2007.
From the data on the numbers of subjects screened and the resulting diagnoses we calculated screening coverage rates and cancer detection rates and estimated the sensitivity of the screening tests. The State Cancer Registry was the source for the data regarding the female population by age, the number of breast cancer cases and cancer-related deaths. The data pertained to the period 2002–9, and included pathology data. Disease rates and distribution graphs of tumours by size and node status were analysed using Poisson regression.
The rates of breast cancer incidence and mortality indicate that the region is one in which the population is at medium risk of developing the disease. There was a significant increase in incidence overall during the period studied (p = 0.03), and a significant downward trend in breast-cancer-related mortality to a greater extent in the 50+ age group (p = 0.004), and when all ages 40+ were considered (p < 0.001). During 2007–9 92,576 women were screened in the BCSP. The screening coverage rate was ∼30%. Of the women who were screened, 9% were referred for further assessment. The average cancer detection rate was 2.5 per 1000 women screened. The sensitivity of the test was estimated to be 74%. Approximately 90% of screening-detected cases of breast cancer were at stages 1 or 2 of the disease.
The finding that screening led to tumours being detected at earlier stages of the disease suggests that, in the long term, the programme will be successful in achieving a further reduction in mortality from the disease.
Objective To estimate the extent of overdiagnosis (the detection of cancers that will not cause death or symptoms) in publicly organised screening programmes.
Design Systematic review of published trends in incidence of breast cancer before and after the introduction of mammography screening.
Data sources PubMed (April 2007), reference lists, and authors.
Review methods One author extracted data on incidence of breast cancer (including carcinoma in situ), population size, screening uptake, time periods, and age groups, which were checked independently by the other author. Linear regression was used to estimate trends in incidence before and after the introduction of screening and in older, previously screened women. Meta-analysis was used to estimate the extent of overdiagnosis.
Results Incidence data covering at least seven years before screening and seven years after screening had been fully implemented, and including both screened and non-screened age groups, were available from the United Kingdom; Manitoba, Canada; New South Wales, Australia; Sweden; and parts of Norway. The implementation phase with its prevalence peak was excluded and adjustment made for changing background incidence and compensatory drops in incidence among older, previously screened women. Overdiagnosis was estimated at 52% (95% confidence interval 46% to 58%). Data from three countries showed a drop in incidence as the women exceeded the age limit for screening, but the reduction was small and the estimate of overdiagnosis was compensated for in this review.
Conclusions The increase in incidence of breast cancer was closely related to the introduction of screening and little of this increase was compensated for by a drop in incidence of breast cancer in previously screened women. One in three breast cancers detected in a population offered organised screening is overdiagnosed.