Cancer screening: the journey from epidemiology to policy

Ann Epidemiol. 2012 Jun;22(6):439-45. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.03.004.


Purpose: Cancer screening procedures have brought great benefit to the public's health. However, the science of cancer screening and the evidence arising from research in this field as it is applied to policy is complex and has been difficult to communicate, especially on the national stage. We explore how epidemiologists have contributed to this evidence base and to its translation into policy.

Methods: Our essay focuses on breast and lung cancer screening to identify commonalities of experience by epidemiologists across two different cancer sites and describe how epidemiologists interact with evolving scientific and policy environments.

Results: We describe the roles and challenges that epidemiologists encounter according to the maturity of the data, stakeholders, and the related political context. We also explore the unique position of cancer screening as influenced by the legislative landscape where, due to recent healthcare reform, cancer screening research plays directly into national policy.

Conclusions: In the complex landscape for cancer screening policy, epidemiologists can increase their impact by learning from past experiences, being well prepared and communicating effectively.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • Epidemiology / trends*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Policy Making*
  • Politics
  • Professional Role
  • Public Health
  • Public Opinion
  • United States / epidemiology