INTRODUCTION: To reduce the burden of colorectal cancer (CRC) in Shanghai, China, a CRC screening programme was commenced in 2013 inviting those aged 50-74 years to triennial screening with a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) and risk assessment. However, it is unknown whether this is the optimal screening strategy for this population. We aimed to determine the optimal CRC screening programme for Shanghai in terms of benefits, burden, harms and cost-effectiveness. METHODS: Using Microsimulation Screening Analysis-Colon (MISCAN-Colon), we estimated the costs and effects of the current screening programme compared with a situation without screening. Subsequently, we estimated the benefits (life years gained (LYG)), burden (number of screening events, colonoscopies and false-positive tests), harms (number of colonoscopy complications) and costs (Renminb (¥)) of screening for 324 alternative screening strategies. We compared several different age ranges, screening modalities, intervals and FIT cut-off levels. An incremental cost-effectiveness analysis determined the optimal strategy assuming a willingness-to-pay of ¥193 931 per LYG. RESULTS: Compared with no screening, the current screening programme reduced CRC incidence by 40% (19 cases per 1000 screened individuals) and CRC mortality by 67% (7 deaths). This strategy gained 32 additional life years, increased colonoscopy demand to 1434 per 1000 individuals and cost an additional ¥199 652. The optimal screening strategy was annual testing using a validated one-sample FIT, with a cut-off of 10 µg haemoglobin per gram from ages 45 to 80 years (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio, ¥62 107). This strategy increased LY by 0.18% and costs by 27%. Several alternative cost-effective strategies using a validated FIT offered comparable benefits to the current programme but lower burden and costs. CONCLUSIONS: Although the current screening programme in Shanghai is effective at reducing CRC incidence and mortality, the programme could be optimised using a validated FIT. When implementing CRC screening, jurisdictions with limited health resources should use a validated test.
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