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Experts Recommend Lung Cancer Screening for High-Risk Populations

New guidelines focus on heavy smokers (December 31)

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published its final recommendation statement on screening for lung cancer, recommending screening for people between 55 and 80 years old who are at high risk for lung cancer because they are either current heavy smokers or former heavy smokers who have quit within the past 15 years.

According to the USPSTF, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and is a devastating diagnosis for more than 200,000 people each year. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer, resulting in about 85% of lung cancers in the U.S. The risk of developing lung cancer also increases with age, with most lung cancers occurring in people 55 years old or older.

Task force chair Virginia Moyer, MD, MPH, cautions, “Screening for lung cancer, while beneficial, should not be an alternative to quitting smoking. The best way to reduce the sickness and death associated with lung cancer is to promote smoking cessation and to protect people who are non-smokers from tobacco-smoke exposure.”

The final recommendation statement was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine and is available on the USPSTF web site.

Source: USPSTF; December 31, 2013.

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