Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of a Low-Fat Diet in the Prevention of Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Published In: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, v. 111, no. 1, Jan. 2011, p. 56-66

Posted on on January 01, 2011

by Antonio M. Bos, Barbara V. Howard, Shirley A A Beresford, Nicole Urban, Lesley F. Tinker, Hugh R. Waters, Angelo J. Bos, Rowan Chlebowski, Jacqueline M. Ennis

Read More

Access further information on this document at

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

BACKGROUND: Results of the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial (WHI-DM) suggest that a low-fat diet may be associated with beneficial health outcomes for specific groups of women. OBJECTIVE: The objective is to assess how cost-effective the WHI-DM would be if implemented as a public health intervention and under the sponsorship of private health insurers and Medicare. Breast and ovarian cancers are the health outcomes of interest. PARTICIPANTS: Two groups of WHI-DM participants form the target population for this analysis: participants consuming >36.8% of energy from fat at baseline, and participants at high risk for breast cancer with 32% or more of energy from fat at baseline. METHODS: This study uses Markov cohort modeling, following societal and health care payer perspectives, with Monte Carlo simulations and one-way sensitivity analyses. WHI-DM records, nationally representative prices, and published estimates of medical care costs were the sources of cost information. Simulations were performed for hypothetical cohorts of women aged 50, 55, 60, 65, or 70 years at the beginning of the intervention. Effectiveness was estimated by quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and the main outcome measure was the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER). RESULTS: Following the societal perspective, the ICERs for the 50-year old cohort are $13,773/QALY (95% confidence interval $7,482 to $20,916) for women consuming >36.8% of energy from fat at baseline and $10,544/QALY ($2,096 to $23,673) for women at high risk for breast cancer. The comparable ICER from a private health care payer perspective is $66,059/QALY ($30,155 to $121,087) and from a Medicare perspective, it is $15,051/QALY ($6,565 to $25,105). CONCLUSIONS: The WHI-DM is a cost-effective strategy for the prevention of breast and ovarian cancers in the target population, from both societal and Medicare perspectives. Private health care payers have a relative short timeframe to realize a return on investment, since after age 65 years the financial benefits associated with the prevention program would accrue to Medicare. For this reason, the intervention is not cost-effective from a private health care payer perspective.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.