The Preventing Overdiagnosis Campaign

Winding back the harms of too much medicine

About the campaign

Following the sell-out 2014 conference, we are pleased to announce a third Preventing Overdiagnosis conference, to be held September 1-3, 2015, in Bethesda, Maryland, just 10 miles north of Washington, D.C. The 2015 conference is hosted by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. Other conference partners are the BMJ — one of the world’s most respected medical journals — Bond University, the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Consumer Reports and the Dartmouth Insitute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

Confirmed keynote speakers include Otis Brawley, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Society; Virginia Moyer of the American Board of Pediatrics; Alan Schwarz of The New York Times; and Laura Esserman, Director UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center.

Overdiagnosis is the result of people receiving a diagnosis they don’t need. It can happen when people without symptoms are diagnosed and then treated for a disease or condition that won’t actually cause them any symptoms, and it can happen for people whose symptoms or life experiences are given a diagnostic label which will bring them more harm than good.

One common way overdiagnosis can happen is when healthy people who attend screening programs or receive tests during check-ups are diagnosed and subsequently treated for the early form of a disease — one that would never, in fact, have harmed them. With breast cancer screening, for example, a recent systematic review of studies published in the British Medical Journal suggests that up to one in three of the cancers detected via screening may be overdiagnosed. There are similar concerns with overdiagnosis of prostate, thyroid and kidney cancers.

The ever-expanding definition of a disease or condition can also result in people who have only mild problems receiving a diagnosis. Or people at very low risk of future illness are classified as being “sick,” given a label, and then offered treatments which may do more harm than good. For example there is evidence that suggests some children are overdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are similar concerns in the medical literature regarding the potential overdiagnosis of chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and bipolar disorder.

Building on existing knowledge and activity, the goal of the 2015 conference is to provide a forum for learning more, increasing awareness, and developing ways to prevent the problem. Research on overdiagnosis is now recognized as part of the future scientific direction of the National Cancer Institute’s division of cancer prevention.

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Consumer Reports’ role

The U.S. spends more than $200 billion on unnecessary medical care each year, according to recent estimates published by BMJ. Ever-more sensitive screening tests, combined with the broadening of disease definitions leads to patients experiencing increasing amount of medical treatments and tests they do not need, and which may actually cause them harm. Documented conditions in the medical literature that are prone to this happening include: ADHD, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and prostate cancer.

Following its support of programs like Choosing Wisely, Consumer Reports has joined Preventing Overdiagnosis as a partner and consumer translator for this important series of topics.

This conference is designed to provide researchers working in this field with the chance to share and debate methods and further advance research agendas. Consumer Reports is proud to support this effort.

If you want to learn more about the conference, click here.


Consumer Reports will create plain-language, consumer summary versions of reports about overdiagnosis in these areas:

  • ADHD
  • Asthma
  • Bipolar disease
  • Cholesterol
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Melanoma
  • Osteoporosis
  • Prostate cancer
  • Type 2 Diabetes



The Dartmouth Institute

The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI) was founded in 1988 by Dr. John E. Wennberg as the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (CECS).

Among its 30 years of accomplishments, it has established a new discipline and educational focus in the Evaluative Clinical Sciences, introduced and advanced the concept of shared decision-making for patients, demonstrated unwarranted variation in the practice and outcomes of medical treatment, and shown that more health care is not necessarily better care.

Healthy skepticism about new treatments and medical “breakthroughs,” an understanding of the risks and benefits of many common therapies and surgeries, and unique educational programs have produced more informed agents of change among physicians, health professionals, the media, and the public.



BMJ is a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association. Its head office is at the BMA House in London and has 450 employees. It also has sales staff based in Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

As a healthcare knowledge provider, BMJ has a clear purpose:

BMJ advances healthcare worldwide by sharing knowledge and expertise to improve experiences, outcomes and value.

BMJ is free from bias and committed to working towards a more effective and efficient health care system.


Bond University

Bond University is set on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Created in the traditions of the world’s leading private universities, a series of grand sandstone faculty buildings line a landscaped promenade leading down to the tranquil man-made lake.

Lecture theaters, case study rooms and tutorial rooms are conveniently located in the University Centre building; several student restaurants, cafes and bars circle the lake; and on-campus accommodation is within easy walking distance of all university facililities.

The study facilities are world-class, incorporating high-tech lecture theaters, the latest broadband and wifi computer connections, and libraries that are ranked among Australia’s best.

Complementing these academic features, you’ll find a comprehensive selection of recreational and social outlets that encourage interaction among students outside the classroom.

cebm logo

Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine

The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing, teaching, and promoting evidence-based health care through conferences, workshops and EBM tools so that all health care professionals can maintain the highest standards of medicine.

The Centre is housed within the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford and is led by the Director, Professor Carl Heneghan who is also Senior Tutor of Kellogg College and an active General Practitioner working in Oxford.

CEBM aims to produce high quality research capable of changing or improving current clinical practice by carrying out clinical trials, conducting systematic reviews, qualitative work, theoretical modelling, database analysis and quantitative analysis. An example of their active research themes includes research into non-communicable disease, which includes a research collaboration with the World Health Organization.