Screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography could prevent 12,000 deaths annually, according to an analysis published online this week in the journal CANCER.
The analysis used information from the National Lung Screening Trial, as well as U.S. population size and other data. The NLST, which was conducted between 2002 and 2009, determined that low-dose CT, compared to chest x-ray, reduces lung cancer deaths by 20 percent among current and former smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 who smoked at least 30 packs per year (equaling one pack a day for 30 years).
Researchers, led by Jiemin Ma, Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society, concluded that in 2010, about 8.6 million Americans were eligible for lung low-dose CT screening. Based on lung cancer death rates, they estimated that if all of these individuals received screening, it would result in the prevention or delay of 12,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
"Our findings provide a better understanding of the national-level impact of LDCT screening, which has the potential to save thousands of lives per year," Ahmedin Jemal, Ph.D., a co-author of the paper, said in an announcement. Jemal added that while several health organizations such as the American Lung Association have recommended LDCT screening for lung cancer, some health agencies are still waiting for new data before making any recommendations.
In an accompanying editorial, Larry Kessler, Sc.D. of the University of Washington School of Public Health, said it was not clear that a new national policy for lung screening was warranted, considering the high rate of false-positives that result from low-dose CT screening, the related workup costs and the costs that are associated with treatments that may not benefit patients.