Researchers warn that even if you quit smoking 15 years ago, you’re still at high risk of developing lung cancer, so screening is vital. It’s an important observation to make in the face of declining smoking rates. Some who have quit smoking a long time ago are still at higher risk than most.
The team from the Mayo Clinic retrospectively tracked almost 6,000 lung cancer patients that have been referred to their organization and another 850 patients from Minnesota. Their purpose was to find out how far along their cancer has progressed and how early it was detected. The sooner the detection, the bigger the chances of survival.
According to their findings, patients who had quit smoking between 15 to 30 years before the study accounted for the greatest percentage of people who did not qualify for cancer screening. The worry was placed out of their mind, thinking that the good number of years since they had indulged in cigarette had lowered their risk. However, it was not the case, in spite of official warnings and recommendations.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends CT scans for adults between the ages of 55 and 80 years old who had smoked at least one pack per day for 30 years, are still smoking, or had quit within the last 15 years. However, a worrying amount of people who get lung cancer do not fall into either of those categories.
In fact, researchers found that two thirds of lung cancer patients in the U.S. who were recently diagnosed quit a long time ago, for longer than 15 years. According to Ping Yang from the Mayo Clinic, the common assumption is that the cancer rates are far too low after a person quits for such a long time. Unfortunately, that appears to be wrong. In placing such recommendations, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force may be reassuring people at high risk of lung cancer that there is no need for screening.
However, that is not true. Those who had quit between 15 to 30 years ago should also get CT scans to find the potential condition early. Lung cancer rates are indeed dropping, because people are getting the message and quitting. Yang underlines the fact that it doesn’t eliminate all their risk of developing cancer. Former vices could’ve caused permanent damage, even if it was a long time ago.
The researchers recommend that former smokers get screened for lung cancer no matter how long ago they quit. Furthermore, they are calling for the Preventive Services Task Force to change their recommendations. That way, they will be able to catch lung cancer much earlier for many more people.
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