Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saquib et al. systematic review of screening tests

Here's the latest blow to (most?) screening tests:
Screening for diseases that can lead to death typically does not prolong life substantially; a few screening tests may avert some deaths caused by the disease being screened, but even then it is difficult to document an improvement in overall survival.

The only tests which showed benefit in terms of disease-specific mortality are "ultrasound for abdominal aortic aneurysm in men, mammography for breast cancer, and fecal occult blood test and flexible sigmoidoscopy for colorectal cancer."

The authors conclude: "Among currently available screening tests for diseases where death is a common outcome, reductions in disease-specific mortality are uncommon and reductions in all-cause mortality are very rare or non-existent."

I think that last point is the most crucial--that practically no screening test affects all-cause mortality. 

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