Evaluation of the benefits, harms and cost-effectiveness of potential alternatives to iFOBT testing for colorectal cancer screening in Australia

Int J Cancer. 2018 Jul 15;143(2):269-282. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31314. Epub 2018 Mar 8.


The Australian National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) will fully roll-out 2-yearly screening using the immunochemical Faecal Occult Blood Testing (iFOBT) in people aged 50 to 74 years by 2020. In this study, we aimed to estimate the comparative health benefits, harms, and cost-effectiveness of screening with iFOBT, versus other potential alternative or adjunctive technologies. A comprehensive validated microsimulation model, Policy1-Bowel, was used to simulate a total of 13 screening approaches involving use of iFOBT, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, computed tomographic colonography (CTC), faecal DNA (fDNA) and plasma DNA (pDNA), in people aged 50 to 74 years. All strategies were evaluated in three scenarios: (i) perfect adherence, (ii) high (but imperfect) adherence, and (iii) low adherence. When assuming perfect adherence, the most effective strategies involved using iFOBT (annually, or biennially with/without adjunct sigmoidoscopy either at 50, or at 54, 64 and 74 years for individuals with negative iFOBT), or colonoscopy (10-yearly, or once-off at 50 years combined with biennial iFOBT). Colorectal cancer incidence (mortality) reductions for these strategies were 51-67(74-80)% in comparison with no screening; 2-yearly iFOBT screening (i.e. the NBCSP) would be associated with reductions of 51(74)%. Only 2-yearly iFOBT screening was found to be cost-effective in all scenarios in context of an indicative willingness-to-pay threshold of A$50,000/life-year saved (LYS); this strategy was associated with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of A$2,984/LYS-A$5,981/LYS (depending on adherence). The fully rolled-out NBCSP is highly cost-effective, and is also one of the most effective approaches for bowel cancer screening in Australia.

Keywords: Australia; National Bowel Cancer Screening Progam; colonosocopy; colorectal cancer screening; computed tomographic colonography; cost-effectiveness; iFOBT; multitarget faecal DNA testing; plasma DNA testing; sigmoidoscopy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Colonography, Computed Tomographic / adverse effects
  • Colonography, Computed Tomographic / economics
  • Colonoscopy / adverse effects
  • Colonoscopy / economics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • DNA / blood
  • Early Detection of Cancer / adverse effects
  • Early Detection of Cancer / economics*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / adverse effects
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Occult Blood
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sigmoidoscopy / adverse effects
  • Sigmoidoscopy / economics


  • DNA