The National Cancer Institute (NCI) today released initial results from a large-scale test of screening methods to reduce deaths from lung cancer by detecting cancers at relatively early stages.

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), a randomized national trial involving more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74, compared the effects of two screening procedures for lung cancer ? low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) and standard chest X-ray ? on lung cancer mortality.

“The National Lung Screening Trial findings showed a 20% reduction in the risk of dying of lung cancer in this high-risk patient population, which is similar to the magnitude of risk reduction seen with screening mammography,” said Bruce E. Johnson, MD, director, Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“This is very significant as it translates into 32,000 lung cancer patients whose lives could be saved each year. These results should prompt the medical community to bring the CT screening technology safely, and with acceptable risk, and cost to the American public.”

Johnson was not involved in the study.

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The NCI decided to announce the initial findings from the study after the NLST’s independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board notified the NCI that the trial had generated enough statistically significant data to convincingly answer the trial’s primary question and that it should therefore be stopped.

A fuller analysis, with more detailed results, will be prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal within the next few months.

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