False positive results in a neuroblastoma screening programme

Med Pediatr Oncol. 1994;22(3):181-6. doi: 10.1002/mpo.2950220306.


Twenty thousand, eight hundred and twenty-nine babies were screened for neuroblastoma at 6 months of age by measuring homovanillic (HVA) and vanillylmandelic (VMA) acid in urine and rationing these to creatinine. Using a "cut off" of the mean + 3 SD, 10 were found to be positive. Two were found on evaluation to have neuroblastoma and in the remaining 8 the raised levels of HVA and/or VMA returned to normal. Only one of the 8 false positive babies was absolutely normal, most having a chronic disorder or illness. Utilising new centiles which relate HVA and VMA to creatinine, only 3 of the 8 would have remained positive, a false positive rate of 0.01%. The false negative rate would have remained unchanged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Creatinine / urine
  • England
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Homovanillic Acid / urine
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Neuroblastoma / diagnosis*
  • Neuroblastoma / prevention & control*
  • Neuroblastoma / urine
  • Pilot Projects
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Vanilmandelic Acid / urine


  • Vanilmandelic Acid
  • Creatinine
  • Homovanillic Acid