US Preventive Services Task Force Issues Draft Recommendation Statement on Lung Cancer Screening

Washington, DC—The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has posted its final evidence report and draft recommendation statement on screening for lung cancer. Based on the available evidence, the USPSTF recommends screening people who are at high risk for lung cancer with annual low-dose computed tomography scans, which can prevent a substantial number of lung cancer–related deaths. This is a grade B draft recommendation.

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer, resulting in about 85% of lung cancers in the United States. The risk for developing lung cancer also increases with age, with most lung cancers occurring in people aged 55 years or older.

“The more you smoke over time, the more at risk you are for lung cancer. When deciding who should be screened, clinicians will need to assess the person’s age, overall health, how much the person has smoked, and whether the person is still smoking or how many years it has been since the person quit,” said USPSTF co–vice chair Michael LeFevre, MD, MSPH. “This evaluation will help clinicians decide whether it may be beneficial to screen a given person.”

After reviewing the evidence, the USPSTF determined that a reasonable balance of benefits and harms can be reached by screening people who are 55 to 80 years of age and have a 30–pack-year or greater history of smoking, who are either current smokers or have quit in the past 15 years. A “pack-year” means that someone has smoked an average of 1 pack of cigarettes per day for a year. For example, a person reaches 30 pack-years of smoking history by smoking 1 pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years.

“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and a devastating diagnosis for more than 200,000 people each year,” said USPSTF chair Virginia Moyer, MD, MPH. “Sadly, nearly 90% of people who develop lung cancer die from the disease, in part because it often is not found until it is at an advanced stage. By screening those at high risk, we can find lung cancer at earlier stages when it is more likely to be treatable.”—Source: US Preventive Services Task Force, July 30, 2013

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