NEW STUDY: Lung Cancer Screening Could Prevent 12,000 Deaths

A newly released study shows that by screening a targeted population of 55-74 year old smokers and former smokers with CT scans could prevent 12,000 lung cancer deaths a year.

“This is a very large number of lives, the equivalent of eliminating almost all deaths from cervical cancer and melanoma combined,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, President and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance.

This would be the biggest single mortality drop in cancer history.

“We hope that the study will spur our public health officials to move now to formally recommend screening and incorporate this life-saving benefit for those at risk in healthcare coverage,” Fenton Ambrose said.

“This number cannot be ignored, and we believe that the implementation of safe, efficient and equitable screening for those at risk the number of lives that will be saved will prove to be even higher,” she said.

The calculations for the estimates released by the American Cancer Society today, were based on the results of the National Lung screening Trial (NLST) which compared CT screening to chest x-ray screening for smokers and former smokers with a 30 pack year history.

Within a very short period of time for a screening trial, and after only three annual screens, there were 20% fewer lung cancer deaths in the CT arm, which triggered an immediate termination of the trial so people in the chest x-ray arm could be advised of the results.

But the analyses of subsequent studies as well as other national and international trials indicate that with more screening rounds and a longer look-back period and the advances in imaging and screening techniques that have occurred since the NLST, the mortality benefit could be 35% to 65%.

“Our highest priority is to see that screening those at risk is done right and well,” Fenton Ambrose said referring to LCA’s National Framework for Excellence in Lung Cancer Screening and Continuum of Care, which lays out the rights of people to know if they are at risk, the risks and benefits of screening and what to look for in a screening site.

LCA is listing sites that adhere to the principles of the Framework on its website to help answer the questions: Am I at risk and where should I go.