Social Network Effects of Nonlifesaving Early-Stage Breast Cancer Detection on Mammography Rates

Published In: American Journal of Public Health, 2014

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Sarah A. Nowak, Andrew M. Parker

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OBJECTIVES: We estimated the effect of anecdotes of early-stage, screen-detected cancer for which screening was not lifesaving on the demand for mammography. METHODS: We constructed an agent-based model of mammography decisions, in which 10 000 agents that represent women aged 40 to 100 years were linked together on a social network, which was parameterized with a survey of 716 women conducted through the RAND American Life Panel. Our model represents a population in equilibrium, with demographics reflecting the current US population based on the most recent available census data. RESULTS: The aggregate effect of women learning about 1 category of cancers—those that would be detected but would not be lethal in the absence of screening—was a 13.8 percentage point increase in annual screening rates. CONCLUSIONS: Anecdotes of detection of early-stage cancers relayed through social networks may substantially increase demand for a screening test even when the detection through screening was nonlifesaving. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print October 16, 2014: e1–e6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302153)

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