Screening non-smokers for lung cancer just as important & effective, finds Taiwan study

Screening non-smokers for lung cancer just as important & effective, finds Taiwan study

Study by National Taiwan University College of Medicine which screened never-smokers based on family history, other risk factors identified a high baseline prevalence of lung cancer.

7 March, 2021

Lung cancer in ‘never-smokers’ or people who have never smoked is a rising threat, and a new study from Taiwan has emphasised the importance of screening among certain risk groups to identify the disease early.

According to researchers from the National Taiwan University College of Medicine, Taipei, low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening — currently the only recommended test for lung cancer screening — may be “feasible” in never-smokers exposed to certain risk factors, such as a family history of lung cancer and exposure to second-hand smoke.

The findings of the team, which was led by Dr Pan Chyr Yang of the National Taiwan University College of Medicine, were presented at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) 2020 World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) in Singapore this January.

For their study, the researchers developed the Taiwan Lung Cancer Screening for Never-Smoker Trial (TALENT), a nationwide study for which more than 12,000 individuals aged 55 to 70 years were enrolled.

The participants were never-smokers as well as those who hadn’t smoked in more than 15 years. All had at least one among a group of risk factors — family history of the disease, passive smoke exposure or regular exposure to fumes from frying food. Of the 12,011 individuals enrolled in the trial, lung cancer was detected in 313 participants (2.6 per cent).

“The study revealed that LDCT screening for lung cancer in never-smokers with high risk may be feasible, which is very important to all who are fighting against lung cancer, (considering) the increasing global threat for lung cancer in never-smoker. Most importantly, the study showed that family history of lung cancer may increase the risk of lung cancer,” principal investigator Pan Chyr Yang said in a statement presented alongside the study.

The study comes as a growing number of non- or light smokers are diagnosed with lung cancer. According to a 2018 study by researchers from China, this percentage is believed to be substantially higher in East Asian countries, where approximately one-third of all lung cancer patients are reportedly never-smokers.

Researchers not involved with the Taiwanese study described it as a welcome initiative, flagging the absence of any recommended lung cancer screening framework for non-smokers.

Some patients battling lung cancer also want people to reject the commonly held belief that smoking alone leads to the disease, which is one of the top 10 causes of death around the world. This narrative, they say, can be dangerous.