Based on the available evidence, the task force of medical experts released a statement Tuesday recommending people at high risk for lung cancer be screened annually with low-dose CT scans. The action might prevent a substantial number of lung cancer-related deaths, the task force said.
"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," Dr. Virginia Moyer, task force chairwoman, said in a statement.
"Sadly, nearly 90 percent 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."
After reviewing the evidence, the task force determined screening people ages 55-80 who have a 30-pack year -- someone smoked an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for a year or two packs a day for 15 years -- or greater history of smoking, who are either current smokers or have quit in the past 15 years.
Smoking is the largest risk factor for developing lung cancer -- related to 85 percent of U.S. lung cancers. The risk of developing lung cancer also increases with age, with most lung cancers occurring in people 55 or older.
Dr. Michael LeFevre, task force vice-chairman, said screening for lung cancer is beneficial, but it is not an alternative to quitting smoking.
The draft recommendation is posted at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org. Comments can be submitted up to Aug. 26 at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/tfcomment.htm.