The Monitor Daily (U.S.) – One Mayo Clinic study may have found a new high-risk category for lung cancer. Former smokers are still at risk for lung cancer after 15 years. The study led by epidemiologist Ping Yang with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center aims to redefine screening criteria for cancer agreed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Smoking has been linked to a severe increase in the likelihood to develop lung cancer. Albeit lung cancer rates are falling due to less people smoking, former smokers are at risk of developing lung cancer.
The main concern here is that former smokers who quit smoking as long as 15 years ago don’t qualify for cancer screening under the criteria set by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The Mayo Clinic study aimed to prove that former smokers are still at risk for lung cancer after 15 years and as such should be considered a high-risk category.
Currently the cancer screening guidelines recommend that adults aged 55 to 80 who smoked one pack of cigarettes or more per day in the past 30 years and who continue smoking or quit less than 15 years ago undergo CT screening. According to M.D., Ph.D. Ping Yang it is important to acknowledge that the risk of lung cancer and death due to lung cancer is dropping in accordance with falling smoking rates.
Nonetheless, former smokers who quit smoking more than 15 years ago don’t qualify for low-dose CT screening. As such, according to the researchers, fewer people benefitted from lung cancer early detection. In addition, two thirds of those patients who are newly diagnosed with lung cancer did not meet the CT screening criteria. Thus, the study concludes with the recommendation that the definition of high-risk category for lung cancer is amended.
The study was localized to residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota. A cohort of 5,988 patients referred to the Mayo Clinic as well as a cohort of 850 residents of Olmsted County were included in the study. The two groups were followed for approximately 12 years.
The findings of the study suggest that newly diagnosed lung cancer cases came from the subgroup of former smokers who quit smoking 15 to 30 years before. It is commonly assumed that the more time passes since a person quits smoking, the more reduced the likelihood of developing lung cancer.
Against this background, former smokers who quit more than 15 years ago don’t qualify for CT screening. The study, accessible via the Journal of Thoracic Oncology proves that the above mentioned assumption is wrong. CT screening should be recommended to all smokers and former smokers, regardless of the time that passed since they quit.
The study should be replicated for large populations. Nonetheless, considering that former smokers are still at risk for lung cancer after 15 years, the researchers extend an invitation to policy makers to revise cancer screening criteria.
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