Publication Abstract

Authors: Tabar L, Duffy SW, Yen MF, Warwick J, Vitak B, Chen HH, Smith RA

Title: All-cause mortality among breast cancer patients in a screening trial: support for breast cancer mortality as an end point.

Journal: J Med Screen 9(4):159-62

Date: 2002

Abstract: BACKGROUND: It has recently been suggested that all-cause mortality is a more appropriate end point than disease specific mortality in cancer screening trials, and that disease specific mortality is biased in favour of screening. This suggestion is based partly on supposed inconsistencies between all-cause mortality results and disease specific results in cancer screening trials, and alleged increases in deaths from causes other than breast cancer among breast cancer cases diagnosed among women invited to screening. METHODS: We used data from the Swedish Two-County Trial of mammographic screening for breast cancer, in which 77 080 women were randomised to an invitation to screening and 55 985 to no invitation. We estimated relative risks (RRs) (invited v control) of death from breast cancer, death from other causes within the breast cancer cases, and death from all causes within the breast cancer cases. RRs were adjusted for age and took account of the longer follow up of breast cancer cases in the invited group due to lead time. RESULTS: There was a significant 31% reduction in breast cancer mortality in the invited group (RR 0.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58-0.80; p<0.001). There was no significant increase in deaths from other causes among breast cancer cases in the invited group (RR 1.12, 95% CI 0.96-1.31; p=0.14). A significant 19% reduction in deaths from all causes was observed among breast cancer cases in the group invited to screening (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.72-0.90; p<0.001). A more conservative estimation gave a significant 13% reduction (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.78-0.97; p=0.01). These findings are consistent with the magnitude of the reduction in breast cancer mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Invitation to screening was associated with a reduction in deaths from all causes among breast cancer cases, consistent with high participation rates in screening. There is no significant evidence of bias in cause of death classification in the Two-County Trial, and as breast cancer mortality is the targeted clinical outcome in breast cancer screening, it is the appropriate end point in a breast cancer screening trial. All-cause mortality is a poor and inefficient surrogate for breast cancer mortality.