OBJECTIVE: Several European countries are implementing organized colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programmes using faecal immunochemical test (FIT) and/or flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS), but the cost-effectiveness of these programmes is not yet available. We aimed to assess cost-effectiveness, based on data from the established Piedmont screening programme.
METHODS: Using the Piedmont programme data, a Markov model was constructed comparing three strategies in a simulated cohort of 100,000 subjects: single FS, biennial FIT, or sequential strategy (FS + FIT offered to FS non-responders). Estimates for CRC incidence and mortality prevention were derived from studies of organized screening. Cost analysis for FS and FIT was based on data from organized programmes. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICER) between the different strategies were calculated. Sensitivity and probabilistic analyses were performed.
RESULTS: Direct costs for FS, and for FIT at first and subsequent rounds, were estimated as €160, €33, and €21, respectively. All the simulated strategies were effective (10-17% CRC incidence reduction) and cost-effective vs. no screening (ICER <€1000 per life-year saved). FS and FS + FIT were the only cost-saving strategies, with FS least expensive (€15 saving per person invited). FS + FIT and FS were the only non-dominated strategies. FS + FIT were more effective and cost-effective than FS (ICER €1217 per life-year saved). The residual marginal uncertainty was mainly related to parameters inherent to FIT effectiveness and adherence.
CONCLUSIONS: Organized CRC screening programmes are highly cost-effective, irrespective of the test selected. A sequential approach with FS and FIT appears the most cost-effective option. A single FS is the least expensive, but convenient, approach.