HealthDay News — According to a research letter published in JAMA Oncology, most current and former smokers in the United States do not get screened for lung cancer even though they are at an increased risk for the disease.

Researchers conducted an analysis of federal government data and found that the proportion of eligible current and former smokers who underwent lung cancer screening in the past 12 months remained low — 3.3% in 2010 to 3.9% in 2015. 

The team calculated that of the 6.8 million current and former smokers eligible for lung cancer screening in 2015, only 262,700 received it.

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The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography for people aged 55 to 80 with a 30-pack or more per year smoking history. 

Research suggests this could reduce lung cancer deaths in this group of patients by 20%, the study authors said. The findings highlight the need to educate doctors and at-risk patients about lung cancer screening.

“The reasons for the low uptake in screening are probably varied, and likely include lack of knowledge among both smokers and doctors as to screening recommendations, as well as access to high-quality screening,” study leader Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, said in a Society news release. 

“Our previous study showed implementing quality screening broadly across the United States could prevent about 12,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the short term. But we cannot prevent those deaths until and unless we start educating eligible smokers as well as clinicians about the benefits and risks of screening, so patients can make an informed decision.”


Jemal A, Fedewa SA. “Lung Cancer Screening With Low-Dose Computed Tomography in the United States—2010 to 2015.” JAMA Oncol. 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.6416. [Epub ahead of print]

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