Compared to participants of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), the general US population eligible for lung cancer screening is unlikely to benefit from early detection because of high risk of death from competing causes, according to a recent study published online ahead of print in Cancer.1

David Howard, PhD, of Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and fellow researchers looked at respondents to the 2012 Health and Retirement Study in order to identify individuals 50 years or older who were eligible for screening based on criteria from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force  and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

They assessed for characteristics such as comorbidities, life expectancy, and smoking history between the general screening-eligible population and NLST participants.

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The researchers estimated that as of 2013, 8.4 million individuals were eligible for lung cancer screening. Compared to NLST participants, survey respondents tended to be older, more likely to be current smokers, and more likely to be diagnosed with comorbidities.

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Five-year survival was found to be 87% in survey respondents compared to 93% in NLST participants, and life expectancy was 18.7 years in survey respondents compared to 21.2 years in NLST participants.

“The results of the current study highlight the need for smoking cessation interventions targeting those patients eligible for screening and tools to help clinicians determine the potential benefits of screening in individual patients,” the authors concluded.


  1. Howard DH, Richards TB, Bach PB, Kegler MC, and Berg CJ. Comorbidities, smoking status, and life expectancy among individuals eligible for lung cancer screening. [published online ahead of print September 15, 2015]. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29677.