Screening and Epidemiology

Course content

Students will be trained in critical assessment of the evidence on (cancer) screening. The course aims to provide a solid introduction to the major concepts, theories and debates relevant to screening, with particular emphasis on early detection of cancer. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the rationale for screening and evaluation of screening outcomes. Finally, the course will provide an overview of the main cancer screening programs that have been implemented in Denmark.


MSc in Public Health Science - elective course

MSc in Health Science - elective course

MSc in Global Health - elective course

MSc in Human Biology - elective course

MSc in Health Science - elective course

Learning outcome

Students will be trained in critical assessment of the evidence on (cancer) screening.


The students will be trained in applying epidemiologic methods to screening. The role of RCTs, cross-sectional studies (e.g. split-sample studies), cohort studies, and case-control studies will be determined. Main effect measures, for both positive and adverse outcomes, will be defined and calculated on real-life data. Arguments against using survival as the effect measure will be provided. Special attention will be given to understanding why cautiousness is needed when standard epidemiologic methods are applied to screening, for example because screening detects preinvasive lesions that get removed by treatment, and because screening changes the incidence rate. Basic concepts that are important for the understanding of screening will be presented. Students will develop their competences and train in critical thinking through daily journal clubs with active participation.



By the end of the course, the students should:

1. Be able to define the goal of screening and relate it to adverse effects

2. Understand the difference between screening participants and patients

3. Understand the process of screening

4. Understand the meaning of concepts such as, but not limited to: target population, attenders, self-selection, overdiagnosis, overtreatment

5. Define the main biases of using survival rates to evaluate the effectiveness of screening

6. Distinguish between: sensitivity, detection rate, and negative predictive value; specificity and positive predictive value

7. Calculate effect indicators of cancer screening from real life data

8. Form own opinion on the value of screening for a particular disease



The students should gain the ability to critically understand and assess screening activities in the health care system, especially cancer screening activities.

Class teachings and lectures

Teaching material will be original journal aticles and power point presentations.

All material will be available in absalon.



Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)

Students will receive feedback for their grade after orally after the exam.

Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 under invigilation
Presence during teaching and satisfactory presentation in journal clubs during the course and oral exam. 20 minutes oral exam with 20 minutes preparation
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
intern censur
Criteria for exam assessment

To achieve the grade 12, the student must be able to


  • Presentation of in-depth knowledge on the impact of screening on benefits and harms for the citizen.


  • Ability to illustrate what data are needed to assess benefits and harms of screening, and ability to demonstrate how the calculations should be done.


  • Documented ability to read the screening literature, to understand the study designs, and to report on strengths and weaknesses in examples taken from publications in the international press.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 30
  • Exam
  • 0,67
  • Preparation
  • 107,33
  • English
  • 138,00