LDCT may prevent 12,000 cancer deaths

Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screenings for lung cancer in former smokers could potentially prevent 12,000 lung cancer deaths annually, a new report finds.

Combining data from the National Lung Screening Trail — conducted from 2002-2009 — with U.S. population size and other data, the latest research team from the American Cancer Society found that 8.6 million Americans could safely be subjected to LDCT screening and that such a method, compared to chest X-rays, could reduce lung cancer deaths by about 20 percent among current and former (15 years out) smokers aged 55 to 74 years who have smoked at least 30 pack-years. After factoring in lung cancer death rates, that amounts to 12,000 prevented or delayed cancer deaths a year, the team discovered.

"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 Ahmedin Jemal, MD, a co-author of the report.

According to Jemal, several organizations including the American Lung Association have sanctioned LDCT screenings with respect to lung cancer. Others still find supporting information for the treatment measure wanting.

"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," wrote Larry Kessler, ScD, of the University of Washington School of Public Health in an editorial responding to the report.

Kessler noted that full-cost benefit analysis should be established before concrete LDCT recommendation is cemented, and that in the meantime, physicians should focus on cessation efforts to support lung cancer prevention.

The developed analysis was published in the latest edition of the journal CANCER.