The potential benefits and harms of recommending low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) lung cancer screening for 20- to 29-pack-year current smokers should be evaluated, a new study published online ahead of print in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has shown.1

Current recommendations make current smokers with a smoking history of 30+ pack-years and former smokers with the same social history who quit within the last 15 years eligible to undergo LDCT lung cancer screening. 

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, sought to assess whether current smokers with 20 to 29 pack-years have a similar risk for developing lung cancer as screening-eligible former smokers.

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For the study, researchers analyzed data from 18,114 former and 12,243 current LDCT-eligible smokers included in The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO). In addition, cancer risk for 2,283 20- to 29-pack-year current smokers was assessed.

Results showed that the 20- to 29-pack-year current smokers have a similar lung cancer risk compared with 30+ pack-year former smokers (HR = 1.07; 95% CI: 0.75 – 1.5).

Researchers also found that if 20- to 29-pack-year current smokers were included in the eligibility criteria for LDCT lung cancer screening, the proportion of eligible persons would be substantially greater for women and minorities.


  1. Pinsky PF, Kramer BS. Lung cancer risk and demographic characteristics of current 20-29 pack-year smokers: implications for screening [published online ahead of print October 19, 2015]. doi:10.1093/jnci/djv226.