Disparities in Meeting Eligibility Criteria for Lung Cancer Screening

Disparities in Meeting Eligibility Criteria for Lung Cancer Screening

Lung Cancer Risk Reduction & Prevention
Apr 16, 2020

By Kim L. Sandler, MD, Melinda C. Aldrich, MPH, PhD, and Jeffrey D. Blume, PhD
Posted: April 16, 2020

IN REFERENCE TO: Aldrich MC, Mercaldo SF, Sandler KL, Blot WJ, Grogan EL, Blume JD. Evaluation of USPSTF Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Among African American Adult Smokers. JAMA Oncol. 2019 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print].

Disparities in Meeting Eligibility Criteria for Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer screening, which includes a shared decision-making visit and low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest, is fully covered for those who meet eligibility criteria by Affordable Care Actcompliant insurers. Eligibility criteria are based on the patient population that was selected for the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST).1 The NLST found a 20% reduction in lung cancer mortality for low dose CT imaging compared to chest x-ray after three annual scans. These results led to a Class B recommendation from the United States Preventive Services Task Force and to current screening guidelines.2 These guidelines, however, exclude a large number of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer by limiting screening to smokers aged 55 to 80, who have a 30 pack–year smoking history and who quit no more than 15 years prior to screening.3,4 A recent sub-study analysis of the NLST data demonstrated that African Americans receive the most benefit from lung screening, yet this population fails to meet eligibility criteria more often than Caucasians.5,6

JAMA Oncology recently published “Evaluation of USPSTF Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Among African American Adult Smokers.” This research paper evaluated lung cancer screening eligibility among more than 48,000 adult smokers who were prospectively enrolled primarily from community health centers across 12 southern states from March 2002 through September 2009. Two-thirds of participants were African American. Among participants diagnosed with lung cancer, a significantly smaller percentage of African-American smokers diagnosed with lung cancer would have been eligible for screening compared to Caucasian smokers diagnosed with lung cancer (32% vs 56%). This racial disparity in screening eligibility can be eliminated by simple modifications to current eligibility criteria for African Americans. By decreasing the pack–year smoking requirement to 20 years and beginning screening at age 50, sensitivity for lung cancer screening would improve for African Americans so that it would be almost identical to sensitivity among Caucasian smokers.5 Specificity for lung cancer screening would be similarly aligned with Caucasian smokers as well.

In the 8 years since the publication of the NLST, there have been several additional randomized controlled trials that have shown even greater mortality benefit with annual screening for lung cancer.7,8 Follow-up studies from the NLST and subgroup analyses have also shown that the morbidity and mortality benefit from screening is even better than initially reported.9 This, in addition to the racial disparities in current eligibility criteria, should be enough to consider revisions to the current screening guidelines.

Novel Screening Approaches
Many researchers have suggested that screening should be based on a risk-prediction model rather than simply age and smoking history.10-12 At the 2019 World Conference on Lung Cancer in Barcelona, Spain, there were 70 posters presented on lung cancer screening and early detection. Of these, 12 proposed algorithms based on patient demographics and/or CT imaging findings to refine screening eligibility. At the 2018 World Conference on Lung Cancer, several researchers presented algorithms for screening and emphasized how improved mortality benefit and reduced false-positive rates could be achieved by selecting a screening population based on risk-based eligibility. Importantly, several models, such as the PLCOm2012 model, have shown that risk prediction for lung cancer is improved in part by including race as part of the selection algorithm.10,11 However, a recent paper suggested that screening based on risk estimates may substantially increase overdiagnosis,13 so additional evaluation is necessary.

Lung cancer screening works by facilitating the early detection of lung cancer in asymptomatic patients who otherwise may only have been diagnosed with late-stage disease after the development of symptoms. Screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT has been proven now to provide an even greater mortality benefit than what was originally published in the NLST.7,8,14 Low-dose CT can find lung cancer with minimal risk to patients. Although the test is not perfect, it is continually being improved, with more advanced CT technology and machine learning being incorporated to better distinguish benign nodules from malignant disease.5,15

Although the research surrounding selection algorithms is promising, we should not deny lung cancer screening to patient groups at increased risk. We can begin by offering screening to patients who we know are routinely excluded, particularly high-risk African Americans who develop lung cancer at younger ages and with less tobacco exposure than their Caucasian counterparts. This is a critical step in reducing the racial disparities that exist in lung cancer survival. ✦

About the Authors: Dr. Sandler is assistant professor in the Department of Radiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and co-director of the Vanderbilt Lung Screening Program. Dr. Aldrich is assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Blume is an associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

1. National Lung Screening Trial Research Team, Aberle DR, Adams AM, et al. Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed Tomographic Screening. N Engl J Med. 2011;365(5):395-409.

2. Moyer VA; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Lung Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(5):330-338.

3. Wang Y, Midthun DE, Wampfl er JA, et al. Trends in the Proportion of Patients With Lung Cancer Meeting Screening Criteria. JAMA. 2015;313(8):853-855.

4. Yang P, Wang Y, Wampfl er JA, et al. Trends in Subpopulations at High Risk for Lung Cancer. J Thorac Oncol. 2016;11(2):194-202.

5. Aldrich MC, Mercaldo SF, Sandler KL, Blot WJ, Grogan EL, Blume JD. Evaluation of USPSTF Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Among African American Adult Smokers. JAMA Oncol. 2019 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print].

6. Li C-C, Matthews AK, Rywant MM, Hallgren E, Shah RC. Racial disparities in eligibility for low-dose computed tomography lung cancer screening among older adults with a history of smoking. Cancer Causes Control. 2019;30(3):235-240.

7. Pastorino U, Silva M, Sestini S, et al. Prolonged lung cancer screening reduced 10-year mortality in the MILD trial: new confirmation of lung cancer screening efficacy. Ann Oncol. 2019;30(7):1162-1169.

8. Koning HD, Aalst CVD, Haaf KT, Oudkerk M. Effects of volume CT lung cancer screening: mortality results of the NELSON randomised-controlled population based trial (Abstract PL02.05). Presented at: IASLC 19th World Conference on Lung Cancer; September 25, 2018; Toronto, Canada.

9. National Lung Screening Trial Research Team. Lung Cancer Incidence and Mortality with Extended Follow-up in the National Lung Screening Trial. J Thorac Oncol. 2019;14(10):1732-1742.

10. Tammemägi MC, Katki HA, Hocking WG, et al. Selection Criteria for Lung-Cancer Screening. N Engl J Med. 2013;368(8):728-736.

11. Kovalchik SA, Tammemagi M, Berg CD, et al. Targeting of Low-Dose CT Screening According to the Risk of Lung-Cancer Death. N Engl J Med. 2013;369(3):245-254.

12. O’Dowd EL, ten Haaf K. Lung cancer screening: enhancing risk stratification and minimising harms by incorporating information from screening results. Thorax. 2019;74(9):825-827.

13. Ten Haaf K, Bastani M, Cao P, et al. A comparative modeling analysis of risk-based lung cancer screening strategies. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2019 Sep 30. [Epub ahead of print].

14. Becker N, Motsch E, Trotter A, et al. Lung cancer mortality reduction by LDCT screening-Results from the randomized German LUSI trial. Int J Cancer. 2019 Jun 4. [Epub ahead of print].

15. Alahmari SS, Cherezov D, Goldgof DB, Hall LO, Gillies RJ, Schabath MB. Delta Radiomics Improves Pulmonary Nodule Malignancy Prediction in Lung Cancer Screening. IEEE Access. 2018;6:77796-77806.