Preventing Breast, Cervical, and Colorectal Cancer Deaths

Assessing the Impact of Increased Screening

Krishna P. Sharma, PhD; Scott D. Grosse, PhD; Michael V. Maciosek, PhD; Djenaba Joseph, MD, MPH; Kakoli Roy, PhD; Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH; Harold Jaffe, MD


Prev Chronic Dis. 2020;17(10):e123 

In This Article


If the current level of screening use were maintained, 10,179 deaths from breast cancer would be prevented among the cohort of 50-year-old women over their lifetime; 27,166 deaths from cervical cancer would be prevented among the cohort of 21-year-old women; and 74,470 deaths from CRC would be prevented among the cohort of 50-year-old men and women (Table 2).

Using a linear relation between screening use and avoided deaths indicated a similar pattern of relative incremental deaths prevented through increased screening. Increases of 10 percentage points would prevent an additional 1,300 deaths from breast cancer; 3,400 deaths from cervical cancer; and 11,000 deaths from CRC over the lifetime of each cohort. In terms of the 2016 general population, those reductions would require additional screenings of 4.9 million women for breast cancer, 9.7 million women for cervical cancer, and 9.6 million men and women for CRC (Table 1).

The impact of increasing the screening rate to 100% sets the upper limit on the number of potentially avoidable deaths (Figure). Screening of 100% age-appropriate adults could prevent 2,821 additional deaths from breast cancer over the lifetime of a cohort of 50-year-old women; 6,834 additional deaths from cervical cancer over the lifetime of 21-year-old women; and 35,530 additional deaths from CRC over the lifetime of 50-year-old men and women. Increasing use of CRC screening would prevent approximately 8.5 times as many deaths as the equivalent increase in use of breast cancer screening (women only), although twice as many people (men and women) would have to be screened for CRC (Table 1).


Estimates of maximum number of preventable deaths in a single-year cohort with increased use of screening under US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines (study year 2018). Preventable deaths over a lifetime for breast cancer are among women aged 50, for cervical cancer among women aged 21, and for colorectal cancer among men and women aged 50.