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Arizona Lung Cancer Researcher: Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Do Not Detect Disease Among First Responders

Friday, October 11, 2019


Chris Martin
[email protected] | 630-670-2745

Becky Bunn, MSc,
[email protected] | 720-325-2946

Arizona Lung Cancer Researcher: Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Do Not Detect Disease Among First Responders

October 11, 2019--Chicago—National lung cancer screening guidelinesare inadequate to diagnose patients who contract lung cancer from occupationalexposure, including first responders, according to a study reported today atthe International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s North AmericaConference on Lung Cancer in Chicago.

The United States Preventative Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening with low dose computed tomography in adults ages 55-80, who have a thirty-pack per year history of smoking and are currently smoking or quit within the past 15 years. However, 30% of lung cancers are attributed to occupational exposure, including first responders.

A large study conducted by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health found that first responders have a 14% increased risk of dying from cancer compared to the general population.Recently, the incidence of lung cancer among 9/11 first responders is increasing and expected to continue to rise in the next 10 years.

“Current practice for lung cancer screenings in most U.S. fire stations include a chest x-ray every five years, but low-dose lung CT is underutilized,” said Dr. Vershalee Shukla, of the Vincere Cancer Center in Scottsdale, Ariz.“First responders can only obtain a low-dose lung CT at 55 and older per current cancer screening guidelines.”

To address this, Dr. Shukla and her team screened 350 first responders, ages 27-76. The average years of exposure was 21.9 years. Of the 195 patients scanned 86 (44.1%) resulted in abnormal findings.An abnormal finding or a positive finding warranted additional close monitoring with another low dose lung CT in three, six or nine-month intervals or a study that prompted further diagnostic work-up with PET/CT and or biopsy, she said.

“This study demonstrates value for low-dose CT as ascreening modality for first responders, who are often diagnosed with lungcancer earlier than smokers for various reasons and therefore screened earlierin this study. The very early results are promising, and ongoing follow-up willlikely lead to further diagnosis of early lung cancer. This is a small studyand warrants further investigation on a larger scale,” Dr. Shukla said.

Her research is part of a state-wide and national effort toraise awareness of the cancer risk for first responders.

“Currently there are nooccupational guidelines for first responders, who are at greater risk forcancers in general.  We have purposed to do a low dose lung CT at baselinefor every fire fighter in Phoenix and then routine screening at age 40.  Iam also recommending doing colonoscopies and upper endoscopies in their earlyto mid-thirties as well as other screening measures for first responders,” Shuklasaid.

About the IASLC:

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization dedicated solely to the study of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies. Founded in 1974, the association's membership includes more than 7,500 lung cancer specialists across all disciplines in over 100 countries, forming a global network working together to conquer lung and thoracic cancers worldwide. The association also publishes the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, the primary educational and informational publication for topics relevant to the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of all thoracic malignancies. Visit www.iaslc.org for more information.


About the Author

Chris Martin, Vice President, Public Relations