Background: The availability of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing and vaccination against HPV types 16 and 18 (HPV-16,18) motivates questions about the cost-effectiveness of cervical cancer prevention in the United States for unvaccinated older women and for girls eligible for vaccination.
Methods: An empirically calibrated model was used to assess the quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), lifetime costs, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (2004 US dollars per QALY) of screening, vaccination of preadolescent girls, and vaccination combined with screening. Screening varied by initiation age (18, 21, or 25 years), interval (every 1, 2, 3, or 5 years), and test (HPV DNA testing of cervical specimens or cytologic evaluation of cervical cells with a Pap test). Testing strategies included: 1) cytology followed by HPV DNA testing for equivocal cytologic results (cytology with HPV test triage); 2) HPV DNA testing followed by cytology for positive HPV DNA results (HPV test with cytology triage); and 3) combined HPV DNA testing and cytology. Strategies were permitted to switch once at age 25, 30, or 35 years.
Results: For unvaccinated women, triennial cytology with HPV test triage, beginning by age 21 years and switching to HPV testing with cytology triage at age 30 years, cost $78,000 per QALY compared with the next best strategy. For girls vaccinated before age 12 years, this same strategy, beginning at age 25 years and switching at age 35 years, cost $41,000 per QALY with screening every 5 years and $188,000 per QALY screening triennially, each compared with the next best strategy. These strategies were more effective and cost-effective than screening women of all ages with cytology alone or cytology with HPV triage annually or biennially.
Conclusions: For both vaccinated and unvaccinated women, age-based screening by use of HPV DNA testing as a triage test for equivocal results in younger women and as a primary screening test in older women is expected to be more cost-effective than current screening recommendations.