A male healthcare professional checking the blood pressure of a female patient.

Lung cancer screening guidelines may perpetuate disparities in health

Recent changes to national guidelines made former and current smokers eligible for lung cancer screening, but a new study by a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health radiologist shows they did little to close the gap between people of color and white people when it comes to who is eligible to get the scan.

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

This matters because Black patients are more likely to develop and die of lung cancer than white patients, and because finding and treating lung cancer early, before it spreads, can reduce deaths by 20%.

To help more smokers be eligible for the low-dose CT scans, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in March 2021 widened eligibility by reducing the youngest age for screening to 50 and by recommending screening anyone who had smoked a pack a day for 20 years.

Anand Narayan, associate professor and vice chair for equity in the Department of Radiology, and radiologist, UW Health, said that while the new guidelines bumped up over-all eligibility from 11 to 14%, they did not improve the disparities between groups. Under the new guidelines, just 9% of Black Americans, 5% of Hispanics/Latinx Americans, and 5% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were eligible for screening, compared with 15% of white people. About 21% of Native American were eligible. Read more …