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OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine the availability and quality of surrogate outcome measure data to enable the evaluation of the breast screening programme. As the observed effect on mortality of a screening programme occurs many years after the introduction of screening, surrogate outcome measures offer an attractive alternative, allowing estimates of the effect to be calculated earlier. METHODS: The exercise was undertaken by the Oxford Cancer Intelligence Unit and the Cancer Screening Evaluation Unit in collaboration with cancer registries in England, Scotland and Wales. RESULTS: The conclusion of the exercise was that, in general, the available data quality was insufficient to allow a precise estimate of the overall mortality reduction from breast screening to be made using surrogate measures. CONCLUSIONS: When a screening programme is started, it is vital that forward planning is undertaken to ensure that the necessary information is ready to be collected before the start of the programme. The use of surrogate measures is dependent on high-quality data in the uninvited group of women (pre-screening or from a staggered start over areas), and improving data quality over time after the start of the programme is of very limited value for a surrogate measures approach. The collection of appropriate high-quality information before the programme starts is, therefore, critical to measuring the success of the programme. Cancer registries and staff within the screening programme need to be ready to collect the appropriate data before the introduction of a screening programme. The exercise undertaken therefore has important implications where new screening programmes are being considered.

Original publication




Journal article


J Med Screen

Publication Date





197 - 200


Breast Neoplasms, Female, Humans, Mass Screening, Middle Aged, Models, Theoretical, Neoplasms, Program Evaluation, Research Design, United Kingdom