BACKGROUND: Health policy and planning depend on quantitative data of disease epidemiology. However, empirical data are often incomplete or are of questionable validity. Disease models describing the relationship between incidence, prevalence and mortality are used to detect data problems or supplement missing data. Because time trends in the data affect their outcome, we compared the extent to which trends and known data problems affected model outcome for breast cancer. METHODS: We calculated breast cancer prevalence from Dutch incidence and mortality data (the Netherlands Cancer Registry and Statistics Netherlands) and compared this to regionally available prevalence data (Eindhoven Cancer Registry, IKZ). Subsequently, we recalculated the model adjusting for 1) limitations of the prevalence data, 2) a trend in incidence, 3) secondary primaries, and 4) excess mortality due to non-breast cancer deaths. RESULTS: There was a large discrepancy between calculated and IKZ prevalence, which could be explained for 60% by the limitations of the prevalence data plus the trend in incidence. Secondary primaries and excess mortality had relatively small effects only (explaining 17% and 6%, respectively), leaving a smaller part of the difference unexplained. CONCLUSION: IPM models can be useful both for checking data inconsistencies and for supplementing incomplete data, but their results should be interpreted with caution. Unknown data problems and trends may affect the outcome and in the absence of additional data, expert opinion is the only available judge.
Population Health Metrics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kruijshaar, M., Barendregt, J., & van de Poll-Franse, L. (2003). Estimating the prevalence of breast cancer using a disease model: data problems and trends. Population Health Metrics. Retrieved from