Study: Negative lung cancer screening not linked to smoking resumption

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Reassurance from negative CT screening results for lung cancer does not reduce the motivation of current smokers to stop smoking and does not lead former smokers to resume the habit, said a study published in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, one of multiple journals published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

The Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study, led by David M. Burns, MD, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, sought to determine whether less smoking cessation and more relapse took place after individuals received consistently negative screening results for lung cancer.

A part of the Early Lung Cancer Action Program (ELCAP), the study recruited 2,094 participants, between the ages of 50-79 who were both former and current smokers residing in the Pittsburgh area. The participants underwent annual CT screenings and completed surveys in regard to their smoking behavior over a follow-up period of 12 years.

Additionally, the participants’ behaviors after receiving lung cancer screenings with positive results were compared to those who had received negative scan results.

The authors found that 58.5 percent the participants who received positive cancer screening scans reported attempts made to quit, compared to 54.7 percent for those that received negative scans. They reported that they did not detect a lower long-term smoking abstinence or increased relapse over a six-year period of follow-up among individuals participating in a lung cancer screening program who have a consistently negative screening, compared with those with a positive, but noncancer, screening result.

These findings should negate widespread concern in the lung cancer screening community that reassurance provided by screening, and particularly by a negative screening result, might reduce the motivation to quit smoking, said the authors.

"This evidence should provide some comfort that CT scanning does not result in a deleterious effect on cessation," said Burns.