The American Cancer Society (ACS) has issued an updated lung cancer screening guideline aimed at reducing lung cancer deaths related to smoking. The new recommendation advises annual lung cancer screening with low-dose CT (LDCT) scans for individuals aged 50 to 80 who are current or former smokers with a smoking history of 20 years or more. The guideline, last updated in 2013, is published in the ACS flagship journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

“This updated guideline continues a trend of expanding eligibility for lung cancer screening in a way that will result in many more deaths prevented by expanding the eligibility criteria for screening to detect lung cancer early,” says Robert Smith, PhD, senior vice president, early cancer detection science at the ACS and lead author of the lung cancer screening guideline report.

“Recent studies have shown extending the screening age for persons who smoke and formerly smoked, eliminating the ‘years since quitting’ requirement and lowering the pack per year recommendation could make a real difference in saving lives,” Smith adds.

The updated guideline report is part of the ongoing guideline development process by ACS scientists. The ACS monitors medical and scientific literature for new evidence that may support a change in current guidelines or the development of a new guideline and information about screening that should be conveyed to clinicians and target populations.

Key Changes in the New Guideline?

ItemPrevious RecommendationsNew Recommendations
Age for eligibility55-74 years50-80 years
Pack-year (PY) history30+ PY20+ PY
Years since quitting (YSQ)≤ 15 YSQNo Longer Required

In addition, report authors stress it’s important for people who are going to be screened to consult with their doctor about the potential benefits, limits, and harms of yearly screening with LDCT scans. People who still smoke should receive counseling to help them quit.

Who Should Avoid Lung Cancer Screening

Adults with health conditions that would greatly limit life expectancy or affect their ability or willingness to get lung cancer treatment if diagnosed should not be screened for the disease.

“This updated guideline is critical to identify all individuals who can benefit from the early detection of lung cancer,” says Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “ACS CAN will continue to work to improve access to care and lung cancer screening at no cost for any person at risk of the disease to decrease lung cancer deaths and help end cancer as we know it, for everyone.”

 “The good news is our research shows the number of new lung cancer cases diagnosed each year continues to decrease, partly because more people are quitting smoking (or not starting),” adds Smith. “The number of deaths from lung cancer continues to drop as well, due to fewer people smoking and advances in early detection and treatment, but we still have to do better. This updated guideline is a step in the right direction.”