Background: Overdiagnosis is the main harm of cancer screening programs but is difficult to quantify. This review aims to evaluate existing approaches to estimate the magnitude of overdiagnosis in cancer screening in order to gain insight into the strengths and limitations of these approaches and to provide researchers with guidance to obtain reliable estimates of overdiagnosis in cancer screening.Methods: A systematic review was done of primary research studies in PubMed that were published before January 1, 2016, and quantified overdiagnosis in breast cancer screening. The studies meeting inclusion criteria were then categorized by their methods to adjust for lead time and to obtain an unscreened reference population. For each approach, we provide an overview of the data required, assumptions made, limitations, and strengths.Results: A total of 442 studies were identified in the initial search. Forty studies met the inclusion criteria for the qualitative review. We grouped the approaches to adjust for lead time in two main categories: the lead time approach and the excess incidence approach. The lead time approach was further subdivided into the mean lead time approach, lead time distribution approach, and natural history modeling. The excess incidence approach was subdivided into the cumulative incidence approach and early vs late-stage cancer approach. The approaches used to obtain an unscreened reference population were grouped into the following categories: control group of a randomized controlled trial, nonattenders, control region, extrapolation of a prescreening trend, uninvited groups, adjustment for the effect of screening, and natural history modeling.Conclusions: Each approach to adjust for lead time and obtain an unscreened reference population has its own strengths and limitations, which should be taken into consideration when estimating overdiagnosis.

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Journal Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Ripping, T.M, ten Haaf, K, Verbeek, A.L.M, van Ravesteyn, N.T, & Broeders, M.J.M. (2017). Quantifying Overdiagnosis in Cancer Screening: A Systematic Review to Evaluate the Methodology. Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Vol. 109). doi:10.1093/jnci/djx060