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Lung-Cancer Deaths Decline With CT Scan, Study Finds

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Smokers who received computerized tomography scans were 20 percent less likely to die of lung cancer than smokers getting chest X-rays, a study found.

Researchers looked at 53,000 current and former smokers ages 55 to 74, half of whom received annual CT scans for three years while the others got X-rays instead, the National Institutes of Health said today in a statement. The trial found that 354 of the participants getting CT scans died of lung cancer, as did 442 of the patients getting X-rays. NIH’s National Cancer Institute sponsored the trial.

The eight-year study, known as the National Lung Screening Trial, is the first to provide “clear evidence” of a significant reduction in lung-cancer deaths with screening in a randomized controlled trial, Christine Berg, the cancer institute’s project officer for the study, said in the statement.

The CT approach may have “the potential to spare very significant numbers of people from the ravages of this disease,” NCI director Harold Varmus said in the statement. “But these findings should in no way distract us from continued efforts to curtail the use of tobacco, which will remain the major causative factor for lung cancer and several other diseases.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, Varmus said. The disease will kill an estimated 157,300 people in the U.S. this year, according to the institute’s website.

Chest X-Ray, Spiral CT

Patients in the study received screening from either chest X-rays or low-dose helical CT scans, also known as spiral CT, according to the NIH statement.

Spiral CT scans for early lung-cancer detection can cost $300 to $1,000, and most insurance providers don’t cover the test for patients who haven’t shown symptoms of the disease, according to the cancer institute. The average cost of a chest X-ray in the U.S. is $370, according to New Choice Health Inc., a company in Pensacola, Florida, that tracks the prices of medical procedures at more than 20,000 facilities.

Participants in the study were either current or former smokers. Each had a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years, calculated by multiplying the average number of cigarette packs smoked daily by the years smoked.

Possible disadvantages of CT screening include the cumulative radiation exposure that can increase the risk of developing other cancers, according to the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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