American Lung Association Responds to Results of National Lung Screening Trial

Study Shows Promise for Reducing Lung Cancer Deaths among High Risk Populations

Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2011)

The American Lung Association is optimistic about the promising results of the National Cancer Institute’s National Lung Screening Trial, which indicate low-dose CT scans can have significant impact on lung cancer mortality.

This study, published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, is the first comprehensive clinical trial to find that screening high risk individuals with low-dose CT reduces lung cancer deaths by 20 percent compared with chest x-ray.

The study examined heavy current and former smokers with no history of cancer, who have smoked the equivalent of one pack a day for 30 years, and were between the ages of 55-74 years old. Roughly 7 million out of 94 million current and former smokers in the United States fit this demographic.  The authors of this study carefully pointed out that the study did not provide enough evidence to move forward with lung cancer screening recommendations.  However, this study and other relevant ones will be reviewed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2012 to develop recommendations for medical providers and health systems.

“Although the National Lung Screening Trial results are an important step forward in the fight against lung cancer, the single most important thing any smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing or dying from lung cancer is to quit smoking,” said Dr. Albert Rizzo, American Lung Association Board Chair-Elect, and a pulmonary and critical care physician. “The Surgeon General’s 30th Report released in December confirmed that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, and the sooner someone quits smoking, the less likely he or she is to develop tobacco-related diseases.”

The American Lung Association is also convening an expert panel to review the National Lung Screening Trial study and to make policy recommendations.  This panel will be lead by Jonathan M. Samet, M.D., M.S., one of the nation’s foremost lung health experts and a member of the American Lung Association’s Scientific Advisory Committee.

“If current or former smokers have questions regarding whether or not they should receive screening, the Lung Association recommends they speak with their health care provider about the benefits and risks associated with screening,” said Dr. Rizzo.

Lung cancer kills nearly 160,000 people every year.  It is the most common cancer, with more than 220,000 people diagnosed each year.  It is the leading cancer killer in the United States, as only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, when it is most treatable. Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer, but exposure to radon, secondhand smoke, air pollution, asbestos, and other occupational hazards are also factors for this deadly disease.

The American Lung Association provides education and support for persons diagnosed with lung cancer, their families and caregivers, and is a nationwide leader in increasing awareness of lung cancer as the number one cancer killer of both men and women. The American Lung Association is committed to funding lung cancer research through its Lung Cancer Discovery Award and its Awards and Grants Program.

In addition, the Lung Association has been successfully helping smokers quit for more than 30 years with its Freedom From Smoking program. For assistance with quitting smoking, please visit the Lung Association web site, or for questions about lung health, please call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-548-8252.

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About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases.  For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: www.Lung.org.