Benefits and Harms of Mammography Screening after Age 74 Years: Model Estimates of Overdiagnosis

Nicolien T. Van Ravesteyn*, Natasha K. Stout, Clyde B. Schechter, Eveline A.M. Heijnsdijk, Oguzhan Alagoz, Amy Trentham-Dietz, Jeanne S. Mandelblatt, Harry J. De Koning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background: The aim of this study was to quantify the benefits and harms of mammography screening after age 74 years, focusing on the amount of overdiagnosis of invasive breast cancer and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Methods: Three well-established microsimulation models were used to simulate a cohort of American women born in 1960. All women received biennial screening starting at age 50 years with cessation ages varying from 74 up to 96 years. We estimated the number of life-years gained (LYG), quality-adjusted life-years, breast cancer deaths averted, false-positives, and overdiagnosed women per 1000 screens. Results: The models predicted that there were 7.8 to 11.4 LYG per 1000 screens at age 74 years (range across models), decreasing to 4.8 to 7.8 LYG per 1000 screens at age 80 years, and 1.4 to 2.4 LYG per 1000 screens at age 90 years. When adjusted for quality-of-life decrements, the LYG decreased by 5% to 13% at age 74 years and 11% to 22% at age 80 years. At age 90 to 92 years, all LYG were counterbalanced by a loss in quality-of-life, mainly because of the increasing number of overdiagnosed breast cancers per 1000 screens: 1.2 to 5.0 at age 74 years, 1.8 to 6.0 at age 80 years, and 3.7 to 7.5 at age 90 years. The age at which harms began to outweigh benefits shifted to a younger age when larger or longer utility losses because of a breast cancer diagnosis were assumed. Conclusion: The balance between screening benefits and harms becomes less favorable after age 74 years. At age 90 years, harms outweigh benefits, largely as a consequence of overdiagnosis. This age was the same across the three models, despite important model differences in assumptions on DCIS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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