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Open Access Research article

Cost-effectiveness of family history-based colorectal cancer screening in Australia

Driss A Ouakrim1*, Alex Boussioutas2, Trevor Lockett3, John L Hopper1 and Mark A Jenkins1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

2 Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, 3002 Melbourne, Australia

3 Preventative Health national Research Flagship, CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, North Ryde, NSW 2113, Australia

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:261  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-261

Published: 16 April 2014

Abstract

Background

With 14.234 diagnoses and over 4047 deaths reported in 2007, colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cancer and second most common cause of cancer-related mortality in Australia. The direct treatment cost has recently been estimated to be around AU$1.2 billion for the year 2011, which corresponds to a four-fold increase, compared the cost reported in 2001. Excluding CRCs due to known rare genetic disorders, 20% to 25% of all CRCs occur in a familial aggregation setting due to genetic variants or shared environmental risk factors that are yet to be characterised. A targeted screening strategy addressed to this segment of the population is a potentially valuable tool for reducing the overall burden of CRC.

Methods

We developed a Markov model to assess the cost-effectiveness of three screening strategies offered to people at increased risk due to a strong family history of CRC. The model simulated the evolution of a cohort of 10,000 individuals from age 50 to 90 years. We compared screening with biennial iFOBT, five-yearly colonoscopy and ten-yearly colonoscopy versus the current strategy of the Australian National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (i.e. base case).

Results

Under the NBCSP scenario, 6,491 persons developed CRC with an average screening lifetime cost of AU$3,441 per person. In comparison, screening with biennial iFOBT, colonoscopy every ten years, and colonoscopy every five years reduced CRC incidence by 27%, 35% and 60%, and mortality by 15%, 26% and 46% respectively. All three screening strategies had a cost under AU$50,000 per life year gained, which is regarded as the upper limit of acceptable cost-effectiveness in the Australian health system. At AU$12,405 per life year gained and an average lifetime expectancy of 16.084 years, five-yearly colonoscopy screening was the most cost-effective strategy.

Conclusion

The model demonstrates that intensive CRC screening strategies targeting people at increased risk would be cost-effective in the Australian context. Our findings provide evidence that substantial health benefits can be generated from risk-based CRC screening at a relatively modest incremental cost.

Keywords:
Colorectal cancer; Family history; Screening; Cost-effectiveness