In an effort to reduce the cost of breast cancer screening several studies have explored the possibility of using risk factors to select a high-risk group of women and then restrict screening to that group. The results of these studies have been almost entirely negative and so it is not possible at present to classify any woman as at such low risk that she need not be screened. Nevertheless it is well known that some groups of women can be identified as being at higher risk than the general population. In this study it is assumed that each woman will be offered one screen at which risk factor information will be collected. The usual screening policy is then one of uniform intervention in which the interval to the next screen is the same for all women: the interval that is currently recommended in the UK is three years. An alternative is a risk strategy in which the time to the next screen depends on the woman's risk status; thus the total number of screens available to the population are distributed according to risk status. Using data from the Edinburgh randomised trial of breast cancer screening these policies have been compared. It is estimated that the proportion of cases detected by screening in the three years following the completion of the initial screening round could be raised from 60% to 67% by adopting a risk strategy. Lead time benefits are also quantified as are the comparisons for an established screening programme.
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