Racial and ethnic colorectal cancer patterns affect the cost-effectiveness of colorectal cancer screening in the United States

Gastroenterology. 2001 Mar;120(4):848-56. doi: 10.1053/gast.2001.22535.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • United States
  • White People