New guidelines for annual screening to detect lung cancer have lowered the age to start screening from 55 to 50 and the minimum smoking history from 30 pack-years to 20 pack-years. Adults aged 50 to 80 years, who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years are recommended to get annual lung cancer screening.
Despite smoking less, Black adults who smoke may be at higher risk for lung cancer than white smokers. Lowering the pack-year history will increase the number of adults who are eligible for screening among those who currently smoke or formerly smoked, which is important for those who are at higher risk with at lower pack year histories.
Pack years is a measure of the amount a person has smoked over a long period of time. It is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked. For example, 1 pack year is equal to smoking 1 pack per day for 1 year, or 2 packs per day for half a year.
- See “American Cancer Society Statement on Updated USPSTF Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines” on the American Cancer Society website (March 9, 2021)
- See the United States Preventive Services Task Force “Final Recommendation Statement on Screening for Lung Cancer”