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Screening Smokers Using Low-Dose CT can Help Reduce Deaths due to Lung Cancer

Update Date: Feb 25, 2013 06:12 AM EST

Screening current and former smokers for signs of lung cancer can save as many as 12,000 lives per year, says a new study. Researchers say that using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) can be an effective way of averting cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

In the U.S. an estimated 228,190 people with lung cancer will be diagnosed this year and 159,480 will die due to cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A study conducted between 2002 and 2009 called The National Lung Screening Trial had found that LDCT screening reduces cancer-related deaths by 20 percent in current smokers when compared with regular chest X-ray.

Researchers from American Cancer Society in Atlanta in the present study used this information along with the U.S. population and found that in 2010, there were about 8.6 million people living in the U.S. who were eligible for LDCT screening for lung cancer. They then looked at the number of deaths due to lung cancer and estimated that at least 12,000 of these cases could be averted if they had undergone cancer diagnosis via LDCT.

"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," said Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, a co-author of the paper.

Previous research has shown that the use of low-dose CT can reduce mortality from lung cancer.

Jemal added that several health organizations, including the American Lung Association have supported the use of LDCT screening for lung cancer after the publication of the National Lung Screening Trial results in 2011. However, there are certain organizations that think the screening isn't effective in assessing a person's risk for lung cancer.

He added that since the publication of the National Lung Screening Trial results in 2011, several health organizations including the American Lung Association have recommended LDCT screening for lung cancer; however, some health agencies are still waiting for new data before making any recommendations, according to a news release.

According to Larry Kessler, ScD, of the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, although the findings of the study are important, there is no need for a national level screening guideline.

"The high rate of false positive tests [from LDCT screening], and the related workup costs, and cost of treating findings that would not benefit patients give pause, and thus it is clear why a decision has not been yet taken in this direction," he wrote in an accompanying editorial. Kessler added that cost-benefit evaluation is required for the complete program.

The study is published in the journal Cancer.                                                           

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