Smokers, take note.
Now, new research presented at the European Lung Cancer Conference says you may need to be screened for lung cancer down the road more than women with the same smoking history.
Currently, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults aged 55 to 80 who have a heavy smoking history and currently smoke, or quit within the last 15 years be screened annually for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography. (Men in their 50s are increasingly at risk. Here's why.) But, 15 years after you quit, you can stop the annual screening.
Of course, with annual screening, you’re exposed to regular doses of radiation, so researchers set out to see what would happen if screenings were spaced out. The study analyzed sex differences in people with lung cancer and included 46,766 male and female patients who underwent chest CT screening at Korea’s Asan Medical Center between January 2000 and February 2016. During that period, 282 patients developed lung cancer. Of those, 186 patients were diagnosed from the initial CT scan and were excluded from the study, while 96 patients were diagnosed from later scans and were included in the study.
Scientists then analyzed the CT screening intervals as well as the pathology and stage of lung cancer a person was at when they were diagnosed. Here’s what they found: The average time between a patient’s lung cancer diagnosis with a CT scan and the previous CT scan was longer in women than in men (5.6 years vs. 3.6 years). But men were diagnosed at a higher stage than women. More than 80 percent of lung cancers diagnosed in women were stage I, while just 49 percent of them were stage I in men.
As a result, researchers said that women with a smoking history could probably space their CT scans out to every two to three years, while men should stick with the annual recommendation.
The study was small, and it’s hard to make solid conclusions based on its size, but it lines up with USPSTF recommendations—for men, at least. Of course, if you quit smoking now, you could avoid the need for screening at all in the future.