How lung cancer risk varies among smokers

30 November 2013 9:32 PM

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A tool can help smokers assess their risk of lung cancer, and whether screening for early disease would be worthwhile.

Many current and ex-smokers are now interested in the option of helical computed tomography, a scan which can indicate early lung cancer. But this can throw up ‘false positives’ at quite a high rate and those at low risk of cancer may find themselves investigated unnecessarily, which can cause distress and anxiety.

Cancer researchers in the US have studied a large group of current and ex-smokers to see how the risk of lung cancer varies. The data comes from a cancer prevention trial done in a group of 14,254 men and women, and another group of 4,060 who had been exposed to asbestos. This revealed that duration of smoking, average number of cigarettes per day, duration of abstinence and age were the key factors controlling the risk of cancer.

These risks of developing cancer varied from one per cent to 15 per cent over the next ten years. Clearly using this prediction tool would give a smoker – current or former – useful information when deciding whether to have a CT screen.


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