Exploring the cost-effectiveness of Helicobacter pylori screening to prevent gastric cancer in China in anticipation of clinical trial results

Int J Cancer. 2009 Jan 1;124(1):157-66. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23864.


Gastric cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Treatment for Helicobacter pylori infection, the leading causal risk factor, can reduce disease progression, but the long-term impact on cancer incidence is uncertain. Using the best available data, we estimated the potential health benefits and economic consequences associated with H. pylori screening in a high-risk region of China. An empirically calibrated model of gastric cancer was used to project reduction in lifetime cancer risk, life-expectancy and costs associated with (i) single lifetime screening (age 20, 30 or 40); (ii) single lifetime screening followed by rescreening individuals with negative results and (iii) universal treatment for H. pylori (age 20, 30 or 40). Data were from the published literature and national and international databases. Screening and treatment for H. pylori at age 20 reduced the mean lifetime cancer risk by 14.5% (men) to 26.6% (women) and cost less than $1,500 per year of life saved (YLS) compared to no screening. Rescreening individuals with negative results and targeting older ages was less cost-effective. Universal treatment prevented an additional 1.5% to 2.3% of risk reduction, but incremental cost-effectiveness ratios exceeded $2,500 per YLS. Screening young adults for H. pylori could prevent one in every 4 to 6 cases of gastric cancer in China and would be considered cost-effective using the GDP per capita threshold. These results illustrate the potential promise of a gastric cancer screening program and provide rationale for urgent clinical studies to move the prevention agenda forward.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Calibration
  • China
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology
  • Helicobacter Infections / microbiology*
  • Helicobacter pylori / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Medical Oncology / economics
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Stomach Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / microbiology*