Background & aims: Colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 50 is recommended for all Americans considered at "average" risk for the development of colorectal cancer.
Methods: We used 1988-1995 California Cancer Registry data to compare the cost-effectiveness of two 35-year colorectal cancer screening interventions among Asians, blacks, Latinos, and Whites.
Results: Average annual age-specific colorectal cancer incidence rates were highest in blacks and lowest in Latinos. Screening beginning at age 50 was most cost-effective in blacks and least cost-effective in Latinos (measured as dollars spent per year of life saved), using annual fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) combined with flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years and using colonoscopy every 10 years. A 35-year screening program beginning in blacks at age 42, whites at age 44, or Asians at age 46 was more cost-effective than screening Latinos beginning at age 50.
Conclusions: Colorectal cancer screening programs beginning at age 50, using either FOBT and flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy in each racial or ethnic group, are within the $40,000-$60,000 per year of life saved upper cost limit considered acceptable for preventive strategies. Screening is most cost-effective in blacks because of high age-specific colorectal cancer incidence rates.