MONDAY, Feb. 25, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Using low-dose CT scans to screen for lung cancer could prevent about 12,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to a new study.
About 43 million Americans are current smokers and if they continue to smoke, half of them will die of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, experts say. Detecting lung cancer at an early stage can help prevent deaths, the researchers pointed out in the report published in the Feb. 25 online edition of the journal Cancer.
In an earlier national study conducted between 2002 and 2009, U.S. researchers found that low-dose CT lung cancer screening was 20 percent more effective than chest X-ray at reducing lung cancer deaths among current and former smokers. Called the National Lung Screening Trial, that study included smokers aged 55 to 74 who smoked one pack a day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years.
For the new report, Jiemin Ma of the American Cancer Society, in Atlanta, and colleagues combined the findings of that national trial with U.S. population size and other data, and determined that about 8.6 million Americans would have been eligible for low-dose CT screening for lung cancer in 2010.
The investigators also concluded that if all eligible Americans received low-dose CT lung cancer screening, about 12,000 lung cancer deaths would be delayed or prevented each year.
"Our findings provide a better understanding of the national-level impact of [low-dose] CT screening, which has the potential to save thousands of lives per year," study co-author Dr. Ahmedin Jemal said in a journal news release.
Jemal noted that since the National Lung Screening Trial results were published in 2011, the American Lung Association and several other health organizations have recommended low-dose CT screening for lung cancer. However, some health agencies are waiting for more data before making recommendations.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Larry Kessler, of the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, pointed out that further information about the benefits and costs of low-dose CT lung cancer screening is needed before considering changes to the national policy for lung cancer screening.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about lung cancer screening.