Cost-effectiveness of Screening for Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma among Asian American Men in the United States

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Jul;161(1):82-90. doi: 10.1177/0194599819832593. Epub 2019 Mar 5.


Objective: Most patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in the United States are diagnosed with stage III-IV disease. Screening for NPC in endemic areas results in earlier detection and improved outcomes. We examined the cost-effectiveness of screening for NPC with plasma Epstein-Barr virus DNA among Asian American men in the United States.

Study design: We used a Markov cohort model to estimate discounted life-years, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), costs, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for screening as compared with usual care without screening.

Setting: The base case analysis considered onetime screening for 50-year-old Asian American men.

Subjects and methods: Confirmatory testing was magnetic resonance imaging and nasopharyngoscopy. Cancer-specific outcomes, health utility values, and costs were determined from cancer registries and the published literature.

Results: For Asian American men, usual care without screening resulted in the detection of NPC at stages I, II, III-IVB, and IVC among 6%, 29%, 54%, and 11% of those with cancer, respectively, whereas screening resulted in earlier detection with a stage distribution of 43%, 24%, 32%, and 1%. This corresponded to an additional 0.00055 QALYs gained at a cost of $63 per person: an incremental cost of $113,341 per QALY gained. In probabilistic sensitivity analysis, screening Asian American men was cost-effective at $100,000 per QALY gained in 35% of samples.

Conclusion: Although screening for NPC with plasma Epstein-Barr virus DNA for 50-year-old Asian American men may result in earlier detection, in this study it was unlikely to be cost-effective. Screening may be reasonable for certain subpopulations at higher risk for NPC, but clinical studies are necessary before implementation.

Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus; cost-effectiveness; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asian*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Endoscopy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Markov Chains
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • United States / epidemiology