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Economic analyses of breast cancer control in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review

Sten G Zelle* and Rob M Baltussen

Author Affiliations

Department of Primary and Community Care, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, P.O. Box 9101 Internal Postal Code 117, 6500HB Nijmegen, the Netherlands

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Systematic Reviews 2013, 2:20  doi:10.1186/2046-4053-2-20

Published: 8 April 2013



To support the development of global strategies against breast cancer, this study reviews available economic evidence on breast cancer control in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).


A systematic article search was conducted through electronic scientific databases, and studies were included only if they concerned breast cancer, used original data, and originated from LMICs. Independent assessment of inclusion criteria yielded 24 studies that evaluated different kinds of screening, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions in various age and risk groups. Studies were synthesized and appraised through the use of a checklist, designed for evaluating economic analyses.


The majority of these studies were of poor quality, particularly in examining costs. Studies demonstrated the economic attractiveness of breast cancer screening strategies, and of novel treatment and diagnostic interventions.


This review shows that the evidence base to guide strategies for breast cancer control in LMICs is limited and of poor quality. The limited evidence base suggests that screening strategies may be economically attractive in LMICs – yet there is very little evidence to provide specific recommendations on screening by mammography versus clinical breast examination, the frequency of screening, or the target population. These results demonstrate the need for more economic analyses that are of better quality, cover a comprehensive set of interventions and result in clear policy recommendations.

Breast cancer control; Economic evaluation; Systematic review; Low- and middle-income countries; Cost-effectiveness; Noncommunicable diseases