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Study: White People More Likely Than Black People To Be Screened For Lung Cancer

The reasons for the disparity must be identified and addressed, cancer researchers say.

Black Americans are about 50 percent less likely to receive lung cancer screenings than white Americans, United Press International reports, citing a JAMA Network Open study released Thursday (March 31).

"The racial and ethnic disparities we observed are troubling, and the reasons for these disparities need to be identified so that they can be addressed," study co-author Dr. Alison Rustagi told UPI.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, low-dose (radiation) computed tomography (CT) is the only recommended screening test to identify the disease when patients have no symptoms or history of lung cancer.

Determining who undergoes lung cancer screening is based on age, how long a person smoked, and how many packs per day they consumed. A 2019 JAMA Oncology study called for a review of the screening criteria for African American smokers, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The 2019 study found that only one-third of Black smokers diagnosed with lung cancer over a 12-year period would have met the criteria for annual CT lung cancer screening. In contrast, more than half of white smokers diagnosed with lung cancer met the criteria.

Overall, “there’s evidence that African Americans have a higher baseline risk for [developing] lung cancer compared to whites,” stated Melinda Aldrich of Vanderbilt University Medical Center who led the new study.

These race-related differences in risk and smoking behaviors were not accounted for in the lung cancer screening criteria, Aldrich added.

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The new research also found that people who self-describe their health condition as poor were three times more likely to undergo lung cancer screening than patients who said their general health was excellent.

This research raises questions about the current system of determining which patients should undergo screening because some people who feel in good health may actually have the disease, Rustagi explained.

Findings in the new study are based on survey responses from nearly 15,000 adult long-time smokers in the United States over a four-year period from 2017 through 2020.

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