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Study evaluates averted costs of neuroblastoma screening

By not implementing a neuroblastoma screening program between 1989 and 2002, the United States and Canada saved $574.1 million in health costs, avoided the unnecessary treatment of more than 9,200 children, and avoided false-positive findings in more than 5,000 children, according to a new study in the August 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Despite much interest in the mid-1980s in screening newborns for neuroblastoma, screening programs were not implemented at the time because it was decided to determine first whether screening would reduce neuroblastoma mortality. The research eventually showed that this screening did not in fact reduce mortality.

Such evaluations of the costs and benefits of new health interventions can identify services that are clinically effective, promoting their use. They can also identify ones that are ineffective, preventing their use, and thereby avoiding both adverse effects on health and wasteful spending. However, such evaluations can be costly and time-consuming and may delay access to interventions that prove to be effective.

To demonstrate the costs and benefits of performing these types of evaluation studies, Lee Soderstrom, Ph.D., of McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues examined data from one evaluation--the Quebec Neuroblastoma Screening Project (QNSP). That project evaluated the efficacy of screening for neuroblastoma by screening Quebec babies born between 1989 and 1994. In 2002, the QNSP researchers reported that this screening had not reduced neuroblastoma mortality and that it caused adverse health effects. As a result, widespread neuroblastoma screening was not implemented in North America.

If the QNSP had not been undertaken, Soderstrom and his colleagues argue, neuroblastoma screening would have been used across North America between 1989 and 2002. By preventing the use of this costly, ineffective screening during those 14 years, the QNSP saved the
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Contact: Sarah L. Zielinski
jncimedia@oupjournals.org
301-841-1287
Journal of the National Cancer Institute
2-Aug-2005


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