Study: Visual cancer screening most cost-effective

Using visual inspection to screen for oral cancer is a cost-effective approach to earlier diagnosis in low- and middle-income countries, according to a study conducted by the research firm RTI International.

The study, published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, looked at healthcare workers in Southern India, where oral cancer is a major health problem, and found that visual oral screening, particularly among high-risk individuals, is cost-effective.

"Our results show that screening for oral cancers by visual inspection is comparable or less expensive than the more widely accepted practice of screening for cervical cancers," said lead author Sujha Subramanian, a senior health economist at RTI. "We hope that the findings of this study will increase screening for oral cancers and help reduce the devastating impact of this cancer on families."

More than 160,000 people participated in the study, which found that targeted screening of the high-risk group of alcohol and tobacco users is the most cost-effective approach. The researchers determined that visual inspection for oral cancer targeted to high-risk people could be performed for less than $6 per person over the course of a nine-year screening program.

RTI researchers collaborated with staff from the International Agency for Research on Cancer/World Health Organization and the Regional Cancer Centre in Trivandrum, India, to analyze cost and effectiveness data from a cluster-randomized controlled trial.

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