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BMJ. 1998 Aug 8;317(7155):376-9.

Cost effectiveness of shortening screening interval or extending age range of NHS breast screening programme: computer simulation study.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Instituut Maatschappelijke Gezondheidszorg, Erasmus University Rotterdam, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, Netherlands.



To compare the cost effectiveness of two possible modifications to the current UK screening programme: shortening the screening interval from three to two years and extending the age of invitation to a final screen from 64 to 69.


Computer simulation model which first simulates life histories for women in the absence of a screening programme for breast cancer and then assesses how these life histories would be changed by introducing different screening policies. The model was informed by screening and cost data from the NHS breast screening programme.


North West region of England.


Numbers of deaths prevented, life years gained, and costs.


Compared with the current breast screening programme both modifications would increase the number of deaths prevented and the number of life years saved. The current screening policy costs 2522 pounds per life year gained; extending the age range of the programme would cost 2612 pounds and shortening the interval 2709 pounds per life year gained. The marginal cost per life year gained of extending the age range of the screening programme is 2990 pounds and of shortening the screening interval is 3545 pounds.


If the budget for the NHS breast screening programme were to allow for two more invitations per woman, substantial mortality reductions would follow from extending the age range screened or reducing the screening interval. The difference between the two policies is so small that either could be chosen.

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