Screening could avert 12,000 lung cancer deaths annually in the United States

Feb. 28, 2013

Screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in all screening-eligible current and former smokers has the potential to avert approximately 12,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. That is the conclusion of a new analysis published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society (ACS). By providing a national estimate of potentially avertable lung cancer deaths, the study helps policymakers better understand the possible benefits of LDCT lung cancer screening.

Despite substantial decreases in smoking prevalence, 43 million Americans still smoke. If they continue, half of them will die of smoking-related diseases including lung cancer; however, detecting lung cancer at an early stage can help prevent deaths.

The National Lung Screening Trial conducted from 2002 through 2009 found that, compared with chest x-ray, LDCT screening reduces lung cancer deaths by about 20% among current and former (quit within 15 years) smokers aged 55 to 74 years who have smoked at least 30 pack-years (the equivalent of one pack per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years).

Based on information from this trial combined with the U.S. population and other data, Jiemin Ma, PhD, of the ACS and his colleagues concluded that in 2010, approximately 8.6 million Americans were eligible for LDCT screening for lung cancer according to the criteria used in the trial. When they combined this finding with information on lung cancer death rates, they arrived at the number of Americans whose deaths could be prevented or delayed annually. Read the study.