• General otolaryngology;
  • head and neck;
  • Level of Evidence: 2b



The 2004 US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines do not recommend routinely screening adults for oral cancer given no proven mortality reduction. A large cluster-randomized controlled screening trial in Kerala, India, in 2005, however, reported a significant reduction in mortality for screened male tobacco and/or alcohol users. In the United States, office-based screening efforts targeting males of high risk (regular use of tobacco and/or alcohol) have been unsuccessful due to poor attendance. Given the newfound screening mortality benefit to this high-risk subpopulation, we sought to ascertain the cost-effectiveness threshold of a yearly, community outreach screening program for males more than 40 years regularly using tobacco and/or alcohol.

Study Design:

Markov decision analysis model; societal perspective.


A literature search was performed to determine event probabilities, health utilities, and cost parameters to serve as model inputs. Screen versus No-Screen strategies were modeled using assumptions and published data. The primary outcome was the difference in costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) between the two cohorts, representing the potential budget for a screening program. One-way sensitivity analysis was performed for several key parameters.


The No-Screen arm was dominated with an incremental cost of $258 and an incremental effectiveness of −0.0414 QALYs. Using the $75,000/QALY metric, the maximum allowable budget for a screening program equals $3,363 ($258 + $3,105) per screened person over a 40-year time course.


Given the significant health benefits and financial savings via early detection in the screened cohort, a community-based screening program targeting high-risk males is likely to be cost-effective.