JAMA Study on CT Screening for Lung Cancer: A Commentary

Mar 7 2007

Claudia I. Henschke PhD, MD

In an article appearing in the March 7, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Bach and coworkers claim CT screening may not help reduce the risk of dying from lung cancer.

I-ELCAP reported in October that enrollment in the I-ELCAP annual CT screening program resulted in a marked increase in the curability of lung cancer and prevention of death; in no way do the results of Bach and coworkers take away from these results and conclusions.

It is important to recognize that the deaths addressed in Bach et al. study were limited to the first 4 years after the start of screening. One could not reasonably expect there to be reduction in deaths from lung cancer in the earliest years. The cure of the lung cancer that results by finding it early thus making early treatment possible serves to prevent the death from lung cancer only several years after initiation of periodic screening. Bach et al. studied a time period where marked reduction in deaths from lung cancer could not have been expected, which then renders their result irrelevant and conclusion incorrect.

Want a second opinion? Dr. Marc Siegel of New York University weighs in with his editorial, "Stupid Cancer Statistics" in the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal (March 15, 2007). Link requires subscription to view.