Annual number of lung cancer deaths potentially avertable by screening in the United States

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The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), which was conducted between 2002 and 2009, demonstrated that screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) reduced lung cancer mortality by 20% among screening-eligible populations compared with chest x-ray. In this article, the authors provide an estimate of the annual number of lung cancer deaths that can be averted by screening, assuming the screening regimens adopted in the NLST are fully implemented in the United States.


The annual number of lung cancer deaths that can be averted by screening was estimated as a product of the screening effect, the US population size (obtained from the 2010 US Census data), the prevalence of screening eligibility (estimated using the 2010 National Health Interview Survey [NHIS] data), and the lung cancer mortality rates among screening-eligible populations (estimated using the NHIS data from 2000-2004 and the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey linked mortality files). Analyses were performed separately by sex, age, and smoking status, with Poisson regression analysis used for mortality rate estimation. Uncertainty of the estimates of the number of avertable lung cancer deaths was quantified by simulation.


Approximately 8.6 million Americans (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 8.0 million-9.2 million), including 5.2 million men (95% CI, 4.8 million-5.7 million) and 3.4 million women (95% CI, 3.0 million -3.8 million), were eligible for lung cancer screening in 2010. If the screening regimen adopted in the NLST was fully implemented among these screening-eligible US populations, a total of 12,250 (95% CI, 10,170-15,671) lung cancer deaths (8990 deaths in men and 3260 deaths in women) would be averted each year.


The data from the current study indicate that LDCT screening could potentially avert approximately 12,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Further studies are needed to estimate the number of avertable lung cancer deaths and the cost-effectiveness of LDCT screening under different scenarios of risk, various screening frequencies, and various screening uptake rates. (See editorial on pages 000–000, this issue.) Cancer 2013. © 2012 American Cancer Society.

In 2010, approximately 8.6 million Americans were eligible for low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening for lung cancer according to the criteria used in the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST). Approximately 12,000 lung cancer deaths could potentially be averted in the United States each year if LDCT screening is fully implemented among the entire screening-eligible population following the screening protocol and regimens adopted in the NLST.

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