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Experts Back Lung-Cancer Screening for High-Risk Groups

Heavy smokers should get annual CT scans (July 30)

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has posted its final evidence report and draft recommendation statement on screening for lung cancer. Based on the available evidence, the Task Force recommends screening people who are at high risk for lung cancer with annual low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans, which may prevent a substantial number of lung cancer-related deaths.

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

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

Source: USPSTF; July 30, 2013.

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