Benefits, harms and costs of screening mammography in women 70 years and over: A systematic review

AL Barratt*, LM Irwig, GP Salkeld, PP Glasziou, N Houssami

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To assess the (i) benefits, (ii) harms and (iii) costs of continuing mammographic screening for women 70 years and over.

Data sources and synthesis: (i) We conducted a MEDLINE search (1966 - July 2000) for decision-analytic models estimating life-expectancy gains from screening in older women. The five studies meeting the inclusion criteria were critically appraised using standard criteria. We estimated relative benefit from each model's estimate of effectiveness of screening in older women relative to that in women aged 50-69 years using the same model. (ii) With data from BreastScreen Queensland, we constructed balance sheets of the consequences of screening for women in 10-year age groups (40-49 to 80-89 years), and (iii) we used a validated model to estimate the marginal cost-effectiveness of extending screening to women 70 years and over.

Results: For women aged 70-79 years, the relative benefit was estimated as 40%-72%, and 18%-62% with adjustment for the impact of screening on quality of life. For women over 80 years the relative benefit was about a third, and with quality-of-life adjustment only 14%, that in women aged 50-69 years. (ii) Of 10 000 Australian women participating in ongoing screening, about 400 are recalled for further testing, and, depending on age, about 70-112 undergo biopsy and about 19-80 cancers are detected. (iii) Cost-effectiveness estimates for extending the upper age limit for mammographic screening from 69 to 79 years range from $8119 to $27 751 per quality-adjusted life-year saved, which compares favourably with extending screening to women aged 40-49 years (estimated at between $24 000 and $65 000 per life-year saved).

Conclusions: Women 70 years and over, in consultation with their healthcare providers, may want to decide for themselves whether to continue mammographic screening. Decision-support materials are needed for women in this age group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-271
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes


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