Lung cancer screening backed

A newly-released study makes a strong case for lung cancer screening in this country and brings it closer to reality, researchers say.

Associate Prof Sue Crengle, of the University of Otago, who led the study, said the screening case was particularly strong for Maori, whose lung cancer mortality rates were three to four times higher than other ethnic groups.

About 450 Maori are diagnosed with lung cancer each year and about 300 die from it.

Prof Crengle, of the Otago preventive and social health department, was yesterday ‘‘so pleased’’ that the study showed that screening was "highly likely to be cost-effective, especially for Maori women and men".

"Having clarity about the cost-effectiveness of lung cancer screening provides further impetus to get this work started," she said.

Waitemata and Auckland District Health Boards have collaborated with Otago University researchers in the study to assess if low-dose computerised tomography (LDCT) could be a cost-effective way to catch the disease in its early stages and improve health outcomes for Maori and, ultimately, other ethnic groups.

LDCT is a computerised X-ray that produces very clear three-dimensional images by using only a small amount of radiation.

The Otago study has just been published online by medical journal BMJ Open.

A total of 35% of Maori adults continue to smoke, compared with 16% of non-Maori adults.

Study finding showed that a national lung cancer screening programme, run every two years, was likely to be cost-effective for New Zealand’s overall population.

Overseas screening trials had resulted in a 20-26% cut in lung cancer deaths, researchers said.

The two DHBs and the university now planned to trial an invitation process with up to 50 general practices in the Auckland and Waitemata catchments.

Waitemata DHB and Auckland DHB director of health outcomes Karen Bartholomew said that about 75% of early-stage lung cancer ‘‘may be curable”.


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