• Science Saturday: Researchers say yes to expanding lung cancer screening

a medical illustration of lung cancer

Balancing the risks and benefits of disease screening can be a tricky business. For lung cancer, screening is recommended for a specific group: people age 55 to 80, who have smoked a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or more, and who currently smoke or quit in the last 15 years or so. That group, according to the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), should get screened with a low-dose CT scan. And research does suggest that scans in that population could save lives — an estimated 12,000 of them per year if applied broadly.

However, recent research published in The Lancet Oncology, suggests screening could benefit even more high-risk people.

“A few recent studies, including our own, have shown that only a third of patients with lung cancer would meet the USPSTF screening criteria,” says Mayo Clinic epidemiologist Ping Yang, M.D., Ph.D., and senior author of the new Mayo Clinic-led study. “We aimed to assess survival outcomes in the two largest excluded subgroups: people who quit more than 15 years ago, called long-term quitters, and people age 50 to 54 who otherwise meet the current USPSTF smoking history and age criteria.”

Dr. Yang explains that the study focused on newly diagnosed lung cancer patients to find out what proportion would have been identified by screening under current criteria. The study used two independent patient cohorts, one from Olmsted County, Minn., and the other from referral patients, both followed for 20 years, to look into the same question.

“The common sense is that the two subgroups would have better overall survival than those meeting the criteria,” says Dr. Yang.

But they didn’t. Read the rest of the article on Discovery's Edge.


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