The use of modeling to understand the impact of screening on US mortality: Examples from mammography and PSA testing

Eric J. Feuer, Ruth Etzioni, Kathleen A. Cronin, Angela Mariotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Surveillance data represent a vital resource for understanding the impact of cancer control interventions on the population cancer burden. However, population cancer trends are a complex product of many factors, and estimating the contribution of any one of these factors can be challenging. Surveillance modeling is a technique for estimating the contribution of one or more interventions of interest to trends in disease incidence and mortality. In this article, we present several approaches to surveillance modeling of cancer screening interventions. We classify models as biological or epidemiological, depending on whether they model the full unobservable aspects of disease onset and progression, or models which reduce the complex process to simpler terms by summarizing portions of the disease process using mostly observed population level measures. We also describe differences between macrolevel models, microsimulation models and mechanistic models. We discuss procedures for model calibration and validation, and methods for presenting model results which are robust with respect to certain types of biased model estimates. As examples, we present several models of the impact of mammography screening on breast cancer mortality, and PSA screening on prostate cancer mortality. Both these examples are appropriate uses of surveillance modeling, even though for mammography there is extensive (although somewhat controversial) randomized trial evidence, whereas for PSA this biomarker has seen extensive use as a screening test prior to any controlled trial evidence of its efficacy. Some of the models presented here were developed as part of the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-442
Number of pages22
JournalStatistical methods in medical research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Health Information Management


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