The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Issues Statement on Lung Cancer Screening CALL TO ACTION

SUMMARY: Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women and accounts for about 14% of all new cancers and 27% of all cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that for 2018 about 234,030 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed and over 154,050 patients will die of the disease. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related mortality in the United States. Lung cancer is a growing global epidemic with 1.6 million deaths annually. Over 60% of individuals present with advanced disease at the time of diagnosis and this can result in poor outcomes. Early detection can however lead to lowered mortality. Implementing a validated tool to reliably detect early stage, curable lung cancer has been a priority of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), in its mission to conquer thoracic cancers worldwide.

The IASLC on October 25, 2018 issued a statement on lung cancer screening with Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT), based on results from the Dutch-Belgian NELSON lung cancer screening trial presented at the IASLC 19th World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) in Toronto, Canada. The IASLC is the only global organization dedicated solely to the study of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies and includes more than 7,500 lung cancer specialists across all disciplines in over 100 countries.


The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST) demonstrated that annual lung cancer screening with Low-Dose CT (LDCT) reduced lung cancer mortality by 20% and overall mortality by 7% compared with controls. Based on the NLST results, NCCN issued guidelines recommending LDCT in 2011, USPSTF (United States Preventive Services Task Force) recommended lung cancer screening with LDCT in high risk patients in 2013 and Low-Dose CT screening was approved in the United States for those at high risk (between the ages of 55 and 77 and a smoking history of 30 pack-years or more and not have quit within the past 15 years).

The Dutch-Belgian Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NELSON) is Europe’s largest lung cancer screening trial and enrolled 15,792 individuals at high risk for lung cancer. Data from this study was presented at the World Conference on Lung Cancer this year which decisively confirmed that annual lung cancer screening with Low-Dose CT in high-risk patients ((age 50-74 years, more than 10 cigarettes/day for more than 30 years or more than 15 cigarettes/day for more than 25 years), reduced lung cancer deaths by 26% in men and up to 61% in women.


With two trials from the United States and Europe demonstrating significant mortality reduction in high risk, tobacco-exposed populations, IASLC emphasizes that early detection must be routinely provided along with best-practice smoking cessation, to enable optimal health outcomes in the setting of individuals who continue to consume tobacco products. Acknowledging that for implementation of Low-Dose CT screening worldwide, each national health service has the authority to decide its own course of action, IASLC has urged its members and others around the world to implement screening programs that incorporate a multidisciplinary group of experts and use best practice in screening care, with focus on the following:

Identification of high-risk individuals

Acquisition of consistent high-quality images (from Low-Dose CT) and incorporation of radiologic guidelines, including definitions for positive versus negative results

Use of defined clinical workup for indeterminate nodules and for pathology reporting of nodules

Incorporation of a defined process for surgical or other diagnostic interventions of suspicious nodules

Integration of smoking cessation into lung cancer CT screening programs

It was concluded that based on the data from these two large, well designed US and European randomized trials, the WCLC committee’s screening experts came to an unanimous consensus that now is the time for international leaders, governments, health care systems and other stakeholders to implement global lung cancer screening programs, as they do for breast cancer (mammography) and colon cancer (colonoscopy), which save the thousands of lives.