Cautious welcome for lung screening trial results

In collaboration with the Press Association

All smokers and former smokers should be screened for lung cancer, whether or not they have any of the initial symptoms of the disease, a US scientist has said.

The comments were based on a paper drawing data from the largest ever study of lung cancer screening.

The study shows for the first time that the size of a lung cancer at diagnosis is linked to the severity of the disease. Smaller tumours were less likely to be aggressive and spread.

"The smaller the lung cancer is at diagnosis, the more likely it is to be stage one and curable," said Dr Claudia Henschke, principal investigator of the International Early Lung Cancer Action Project (I-ELCAP)

"If small lung cancers are found, they may have a significantly improved chance of a cure."

She added that ex-smokers remain at high risk of lung cancer for up to 30 years after they give up, and should consider regular screening for early tumours.

Henry Scowcroft, a Cancer Research UK information officer, commented: "Like all cancers, treatment for lung cancer is much more successful if the disease is diagnosed early. But unlike many cancers, lung cancer is extremely tricky to spot."

But despite the "encouraging" results, the charity was cautious.

"There needs to be a full assessment of other aspects of regular CT scanning ? its cost, availability and safety, before any form of routine screening could be offered to those at high risk."

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer in the UK, with 37,500 new cases diagnosed annually. It is also responsible for 22 per cent of all cancer deaths, the highest of all cancers.