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CT Screening May Reduce Lung Cancer Death Rate

National Lung Screening Trial finds CT screening cuts mortality 20 percent in heavy smokers

FRIDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Annual lung cancer screening using computed tomography (CT) rather than conventional X-ray imaging could cut lung cancer mortality in older current or former heavy smokers by 20 percent, according to the results of the National Lung Screening Trial published online Nov. 2 in Radiology.

Denise R. Aberle, M.D., of the University of California at Los Angeles, and colleagues enrolled 53,500 current and former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74 years. They were randomized for screening at baseline and years one and two using low-dose helical CT or standard chest X-ray. The cohort then was followed for up to five years for the incidence of lung cancer mortality.

As of Oct. 20 of this year, there were 354 lung cancer deaths in the CT screening arm compared to 442 lung cancer deaths in the chest X-ray arm, corresponding to a 20.3 percent drop in mortality for the CT screening, prompting the Data and Safety Monitoring Board to recommend ending the study. The researchers also found that annual CT screening cut mortality from any cause by 7 percent.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States and throughout the world, so a validated approach that can reduce lung cancer mortality by even 20 percent has the potential to spare very significant numbers of people from the ravages of this disease. But these findings should in no way distract us from continued efforts to curtail the use of tobacco, which will remain the major causative factor for lung cancer and several other diseases," Harold E. Varmus, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute, said in a statement.

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