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Shocking! Heavy smokers who quit 15 years ago still at high risk for lung cancer


New York: This might be an alarming news for all those who happened to be chain smokers at some point in time. People who were once heavy smokers, but quit the habit for over 15 years are still at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Researchers have warned that such people should be screened for lung cancer as they could detect more cases and further reduce associated mortality.

CT screening have been recommended for adults between ages 55 and 80 who have smoked for 30 years and are still smoking or have quit within 15 years by the current lung cancer screening criteria set by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

In a new study, lead author Ping Yang, epidemiologist at Mayo Clinic Cancer Centre, and colleagues found that two-thirds of patients with newly diagnosed lung cancer would not meet the current USPSTF screening criteria, suggesting a need to adjust the definition of patients at high risk.

They found that compared to other risk categories, patients who quit smoking for 15 to 30 years accounted for the greatest percentage of patients with lung cancer who didn’t qualify for screening.

“We were surprised to find that the incidence of lung cancer was proportionally higher in this subgroup, compared to other subgroups of former cigarette smokers,” Yang noted.

The common assumption is that after a person has quit for so many years, the lung cancer rate would be so low that it wouldn’t be noticeable.

“We found that assumption to be wrong. This suggests we need to pay attention to people who quit smoking more than 15 years ago, because they are still at high risk for developing lung cancer,” Yang added in a paper published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

Equally important, the findings showed that expanding the criteria for CT screening would save more lives with an acceptable amount of radiation exposure and cost.

If true in large populations, the authors recommend that policymakers should consider changing the lung cancer screening guidelines to include people who quit smoking more than 15 years ago.


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