In the Netherlands, routine mammography screening starts at age 50. This starting age may have to be reconsidered because of the increasing breast cancer incidence among women aged 40 to 49 and the recent implementation of digital mammography. We assessed the cost-effectiveness of digital mammography screening that starts between age 40 and 49, using a microsimulation model. Women were screened before age 50, in addition to the current programme (biennial 50-74). Screening strategies varied in starting age (between 40 and 50) and frequency (annual or biennial). The numbers of breast cancers diagnosed, life-years gained (LYG) and breast cancer deaths averted were predicted and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) were calculated to compare screening scenarios. Biennial screening from age 50 to 74 (current strategy) was estimated to gain 157 life years per 1,000 women with lifelong follow-up, compared to a situation without screening, and cost €3,376/LYG (3.5% discounted). Additional screening increased the number of LYG, compared to no screening, ranging from 168 to 242. The costs to generate one additional LYG (i.e., ICER), comparing a screening strategy to the less intensive alternative, were estimated at €5,329 (biennial 48-74 vs. current strategy), €7,628 (biennial 45-74 vs. biennial 48-74), €10,826 (biennial 40-74 vs. biennial 45-74) and €18,759 (annual 40-49-‰+-‰biennial 50-74 vs. biennial 40-74). Other strategies (49-‰+-‰biennial 50-74 and annual 45-49-‰+-‰biennial 50-74) resulted in less favourable ICERs. These findings show that extending the Dutch screening programme by screening between age 40 and 49 is cost-effective, particularly for biennial strategies. What's New? Women in the Netherlands are supposed to start routine mammograms at 50, but that recommendation is under review. Considering advances in technology and increasing cancer rates among younger women, these authors studied the cost-effectiveness of digital mammography starting before age 50. The current protocol, biennial screening from ages 50 to 74, costs €3,376 per life-year-gained (LYG). Extending biennial screening to 48 year olds, the authors found, cost €5,329 per additional LYG, and beginning at age 45 increased the cost to €7,628 per additional LYG. Thus, earlier screening could be a cost-effective strategy.

Age, Breast cancer, Computer simulation, Cost-effectiveness, Mammography screening,
International Journal of Cancer
Department of Public Health

Sankatsing, V.D.V, Heijnsdijk, E.A.M, van Luijt, P.A, van Ravesteyn, N.T, Fracheboud, J, & de Koning, H.J. (2015). Cost-effectiveness of digital mammography screening before the age of 50 in the Netherlands. International Journal of Cancer, 137(8), 1990–1999. doi:10.1002/ijc.29572