Screening debate: benefits and harms balance

09.Sep - 10.Sep

Cod. O18-19

Official language of the activity: Spanish

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Cancer is one of the main causes of death in the world, and a lot of research is being developed in order to know about the associated risks (life styles, age, sex, environmental and genetics factors) and prevent new cases. Early detection and treatment in initial stages have enabled the reduction of the socioeconomic burden as well as an improvement in the quality of life of survivors.

Although the recommendations for changing life styles (European Code Against Cancer), have been implemented by governments and health systems (tobacco is a good example), factors like obesity, excess of meat, sugar consumption and sedentary lifestyles are still out of control.  So, secondary prevention has been researching to detect tumors in asymptomatic phase and guarantee a less aggressive treatment decreasing morbidity, mortality, and preventing new cases in the population.

Because not all cancers can be detected in early stages, the number of tests are limited by their cost-effectiveness and the acceptance by professionals and the population, among other criteria. Nowadays, these tests, named screening tests, are only recommended for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer.  In prostate cancer, general population screening is not recommended and in the case of lung cancer, the latest studies point to its effectiveness in heavy smokers.

Therefore, these screening strategies were well accepted by scientists, professionals and general population because of their proved benefits, and the participation rate has been considered the most important challenge for authorities and the planners of the programme both in the EU and overseas. However, analysis based on incidence, mortality and side-effect trends have shown different drawbacks due to the screening (false positive, false negative, overdiagnosis, overtreatment). So, the controversy is on the table much in the same way as with the vaccination programmes, maybe more intense between scientists and professionals than in the society until now.

These polemic issues have driven professionals who coordinate and evaluate the screening programmes to a deep reflection aimed at improving the information through society and persons that allow them to take into account the benefits for the general population and the harms for a few people. That means, to clarify the dimension of benefits and harms. Their better knowledge could allow better autonomous decisions.

In all of this debate, it is necesary to incorporate the inequalities as a key point, as another element of concern. Gender, residence, socioeconomic  level and health system access show differences in cancer survival among more deprived people.

This activity is included in the cycle "Health, a commitment to people" that is developed in collaboration with the Department of Health of the Basque Government and Osakidetza, which offers reduced fees (75% discount on advance rate) and is especially aimed to the training and updating of professionals of the public health of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country. 


To analyze the European recommendations related to cancer screening.

To improve knowledge about screening strategies and its European implementation: EU, Spain and the Basque Country.

To analyze the main benefits, harms and cost-effectiveness of screening programmes and recommendations for improving the communication.

To share knowledge and scientific evidence, based on new screenings and its personalization.

Activity directed to

  • University students
  • Teachers
  • Professionals
  • All public
  • Researchers
  • Course
    • Health
    • Health, a commitment with people
    • Social Sciences
  • 09.Sep - 10.Sep
  • Miramar Palace
  • Spanish
  • Academic Validity: 20 hours