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1.  Evaluation of the Lung Cancer Risks at Which to Screen Ever- and Never-Smokers: Screening Rules Applied to the PLCO and NLST Cohorts 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(12):e1001764.
Martin Tammemägi and colleagues evaluate which risk groups of individuals, including nonsmokers and high-risk individuals from 65 to 80 years of age, should be screened for lung cancer using computed tomography.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Lung cancer risks at which individuals should be screened with computed tomography (CT) for lung cancer are undecided. This study's objectives are to identify a risk threshold for selecting individuals for screening, to compare its efficiency with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) criteria for identifying screenees, and to determine whether never-smokers should be screened. Lung cancer risks are compared between smokers aged 55–64 and ≥65–80 y.
Methods and Findings
Applying the PLCOm2012 model, a model based on 6-y lung cancer incidence, we identified the risk threshold above which National Lung Screening Trial (NLST, n = 53,452) CT arm lung cancer mortality rates were consistently lower than rates in the chest X-ray (CXR) arm. We evaluated the USPSTF and PLCOm2012 risk criteria in intervention arm (CXR) smokers (n = 37,327) of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO). The numbers of smokers selected for screening, and the sensitivities, specificities, and positive predictive values (PPVs) for identifying lung cancers were assessed. A modified model (PLCOall2014) evaluated risks in never-smokers. At PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151, the 65th percentile of risk, the NLST CT arm mortality rates are consistently below the CXR arm's rates. The number needed to screen to prevent one lung cancer death in the 65th to 100th percentile risk group is 255 (95% CI 143 to 1,184), and in the 30th to <65th percentile risk group is 963 (95% CI 291 to −754); the number needed to screen could not be estimated in the <30th percentile risk group because of absence of lung cancer deaths. When applied to PLCO intervention arm smokers, compared to the USPSTF criteria, the PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151 threshold selected 8.8% fewer individuals for screening (p<0.001) but identified 12.4% more lung cancers (sensitivity 80.1% [95% CI 76.8%–83.0%] versus 71.2% [95% CI 67.6%–74.6%], p<0.001), had fewer false-positives (specificity 66.2% [95% CI 65.7%–66.7%] versus 62.7% [95% CI 62.2%–63.1%], p<0.001), and had higher PPV (4.2% [95% CI 3.9%–4.6%] versus 3.4% [95% CI 3.1%–3.7%], p<0.001). In total, 26% of individuals selected for screening based on USPSTF criteria had risks below the threshold PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151. Of PLCO former smokers with quit time >15 y, 8.5% had PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151. None of 65,711 PLCO never-smokers had PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151. Risks and lung cancers were significantly greater in PLCO smokers aged ≥65–80 y than in those aged 55–64 y. This study omitted cost-effectiveness analysis.
The USPSTF criteria for CT screening include some low-risk individuals and exclude some high-risk individuals. Use of the PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151 criterion can improve screening efficiency. Currently, never-smokers should not be screened. Smokers aged ≥65–80 y are a high-risk group who may benefit from screening.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Lung cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the world and the most common cause of cancer-related deaths. Like all cancers, lung cancer occurs when cells acquire genetic changes that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The most common trigger for these genetic changes in lung cancer is exposure to cigarette smoke. Symptoms of lung cancer include a persistent cough and breathlessness. If lung cancer is diagnosed when it is confined to the lung (stage I), the tumor can often be removed surgically. Stage II tumors, which have spread into nearby lymph nodes, are usually treated with surgery plus chemotherapy or radiotherapy. For more advanced lung cancers that have spread throughout the chest (stage III) or the body (stage IV), surgery is rarely helpful and these tumors are treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy alone. Overall, because most lung cancers are not detected until they are advanced, less than 17% of people diagnosed with lung cancer survive for five years.
Why Was This Study Done?
Screening for lung cancer—looking for early disease in healthy people—could save lives. In the US National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), annual screening with computed tomography (CT) reduced lung cancer mortality by 20% among smokers at high risk of developing cancer compared with screening with a chest X-ray. But what criteria should be used to decide who is screened for lung cancer? The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), for example, recommends annual CT screening of people who are 55–80 years old, have smoked 30 or more pack-years (one pack-year is defined as a pack of cigarettes per day for one year), and—if they are former smokers—quit smoking less than 15 years ago. However, some experts think lung cancer risk prediction models—statistical models that estimate risk based on numerous personal characteristics—should be used to select people for screening. Here, the researchers evaluate PLCOm2012, a lung cancer risk prediction model based on the incidence of lung cancer among smokers enrolled in the US Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO). Specifically, the researchers use NLST and PLCO screening trial data to identify a PLCOm2012 risk threshold for selecting people for screening and to compare the efficiency of the PLCOm2012 model and the USPSTF criteria for identifying “screenees.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By analyzing NLST data, the researchers calculated that at PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151, mortality (death) rates among NLST participants screened with CT were consistently below mortality rates among NLST participants screened with chest X-ray and that 255 people with a PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151 would need to be screened to prevent one lung cancer death. Next, they used data collected from smokers in the screened arm of the PLCO trial to compare the efficiency of the PLCOm2012 and USPSTF criteria for identifying screenees. They found that 8.8% fewer people had a PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151 than met USPSTF criteria for screening, but 12.4% more lung cancers were identified. Thus, using PLCOm2012 improved the sensitivity and specificity of the selection of individuals for lung cancer screening over using UPSTF criteria. Notably, 8.5% of PLCO former smokers with quit times of more than 15 years had PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151, none of the PLCO never-smokers had PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151, and the calculated risks and incidence of lung cancer were greater among PLCO smokers aged ≥65–80 years than among those aged 55–64 years.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Despite the absence of a cost-effectiveness analysis in this study, these findings suggest that the use of the PLCOm2012 risk ≥0.0151 threshold rather than USPSTF criteria for selecting individuals for lung cancer screening could improve screening efficiency. The findings have several other important implications. First, these findings suggest that screening may be justified in people who stopped smoking more than 15 years ago; USPSTF currently recommends that screening stop once an individual's quit time exceeds 15 years. Second, these findings do not support lung cancer screening among never-smokers. Finally, these findings suggest that smokers aged ≥65–80 years might benefit from screening, although the presence of additional illnesses and reduced life expectancy need to be considered before recommending the provision of routine lung cancer screening to this section of the population.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information about all aspects of lung cancer for patients and health-care professionals, including information on lung cancer screening (in English and Spanish)
Cancer Research UK also provides detailed information about lung cancer and about lung cancer screening
The UK National Health Service Choices website has a page on lung cancer that includes personal stories
MedlinePlus provides links to other sources of information about lung cancer (in English and Spanish)
Information about the USPSTF recommendations for lung cancer screening is available
PMCID: PMC4251899  PMID: 25460915
2.  Diagnostic evaluation following a positive lung screening chest radiograph in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial 
Lung cancer (Amsterdam, Netherlands)  2013;82(2):10.1016/j.lungcan.2013.07.017.
Lung cancer is the major cause of cancer mortality. One of the aims of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO) was to determine if annual screening chest radiographs reduce lung cancer mortality. We enrolled 154,900 individuals, aged 55–74 years; 77,445 were randomized to the intervention arm and received an annual chest radiograph for 3 or 4 years. Participants with a positive screen underwent diagnostic evaluation under guidance of their primary physician. Methods of diagnosis or exclusion of cancer, interval from screen to diagnosis, and factors predicting diagnostic testing were evaluated. One or more positive screens occurred in 17% of participants. Positive screens resulted in biopsy in 3%, with 54% positive for cancer. Biopsy likelihood was associated with a mass, smoking, age, and family history of lung cancer. Diagnostic testing stopped after a chest radiograph or computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging in over half. After a second or subsequent positive screen, evaluation stopped after comparison to prior radiographs in over half. Of 308 screen-detected cancers, the diagnosis was established by thoracotomy/thoracoscopy in 47.7%, needle biopsy in 27.6%, bronchoscopy in 20.1% and mediastinoscopy in 2.9%. Eighty-four percent of screen-detected lung cancers were diagnosed within 6 months. Diagnostic evaluations following a positive screen were conducted in a timely fashion. Lung cancer was diagnosed by tissue biopsy or cytology in all cases. Lung cancer was excluded during evaluation of positive screening examinations by clinical or radiographic evaluation in all but 1.4% who required a tissue biopsy.
PMCID: PMC3818308  PMID: 23993734
Lung Neoplasms/mortality; Radiography/screening/methods; Risk factors
3.  Selection Criteria for Lung-Cancer Screening 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;368(8):728-736.
The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) used risk factors for lung cancer (e.g., ≥30 pack-years of smoking and <15 years since quitting) as selection criteria for lung-cancer screening. Use of an accurate model that incorporates additional risk factors to select persons for screening may identify more persons who have lung cancer or in whom lung cancer will develop.
We modified the 2011 lung-cancer risk-prediction model from our Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial to ensure applicability to NLST data; risk was the probability of a diagnosis of lung cancer during the 6-year study period. We developed and validated the model (PLCOM2012) with data from the 80,375 persons in the PLCO control and intervention groups who had ever smoked. Discrimination (area under the receiver-operating-characteristic curve [AUC]) and calibration were assessed. In the validation data set, 14,144 of 37,332 persons (37.9%) met NLST criteria. For comparison, 14,144 highest-risk persons were considered positive (eligible for screening) according to PLCOM2012 criteria. We compared the accuracy of PLCOM2012 criteria with NLST criteria to detect lung cancer. Cox models were used to evaluate whether the reduction in mortality among 53,202 persons undergoing low-dose computed tomographic screening in the NLST differed according to risk.
The AUC was 0.803 in the development data set and 0.797 in the validation data set. As compared with NLST criteria, PLCOM2012 criteria had improved sensitivity (83.0% vs. 71.1%, P<0.001) and positive predictive value (4.0% vs. 3.4%, P = 0.01), without loss of specificity (62.9% and. 62.7%, respectively; P = 0.54); 41.3% fewer lung cancers were missed. The NLST screening effect did not vary according to PLCOM2012 risk (P = 0.61 for interaction).
The use of the PLCOM2012 model was more sensitive than the NLST criteria for lung-cancer detection.
PMCID: PMC3929969  PMID: 23425165
4.  Prostate Cancer Screening in the Randomized Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial: Mortality Results after 13 Years of Follow-up 
The prostate component of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial was undertaken to determine whether there is a reduction in prostate cancer mortality from screening using serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing and digital rectal examination (DRE). Mortality after 7–10 years of follow-up has been reported previously. We report extended follow-up to 13 years after the trial.
A total of 76 685 men, aged 55–74 years, were enrolled at 10 screening centers between November 1993 and July 2001 and randomly assigned to the intervention (organized screening of annual PSA testing for 6 years and annual DRE for 4 years; 38 340 men) and control (usual care, which sometimes included opportunistic screening; 38 345 men) arms. Screening was completed in October 2006. All incident prostate cancers and deaths from prostate cancer through 13 years of follow-up or through December 31, 2009, were ascertained. Relative risks (RRs) were estimated as the ratio of observed rates in the intervention and control arms, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated assuming a Poisson distribution for the number of events. Poisson regression modeling was used to examine the interactions with respect to prostate cancer mortality between trial arm and age, comorbidity status, and pretrial PSA testing. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Approximately 92% of the study participants were followed to 10 years and 57% to 13 years. At 13 years, 4250 participants had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in the intervention arm compared with 3815 in the control arm. Cumulative incidence rates for prostate cancer in the intervention and control arms were 108.4 and 97.1 per 10 000 person-years, respectively, resulting in a relative increase of 12% in the intervention arm (RR = 1.12, 95% CI = 1.07 to 1.17). After 13 years of follow-up, the cumulative mortality rates from prostate cancer in the intervention and control arms were 3.7 and 3.4 deaths per 10 000 person-years, respectively, resulting in a non-statistically significant difference between the two arms (RR = 1.09, 95% CI = 0.87 to 1.36). No statistically significant interactions with respect to prostate cancer mortality were observed between trial arm and age (Pinteraction = .81), pretrial PSA testing (Pinteraction = .52), and comorbidity (Pinteraction = .68).
After 13 years of follow-up, there was no evidence of a mortality benefit for organized annual screening in the PLCO trial compared with opportunistic screening, which forms part of usual care, and there was no apparent interaction with age, baseline comorbidity, or pretrial PSA testing.
PMCID: PMC3260132  PMID: 22228146
5.  Lung Cancer Risk Prediction: Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial Models and Validation 
Identification of individuals at high risk for lung cancer should be of value to individuals, patients, clinicians, and researchers. Existing prediction models have only modest capabilities to classify persons at risk accurately.
Prospective data from 70 962 control subjects in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO) were used in models for the general population (model 1) and for a subcohort of ever-smokers (N = 38 254) (model 2). Both models included age, socioeconomic status (education), body mass index, family history of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, recent chest x-ray, smoking status (never, former, or current), pack-years smoked, and smoking duration. Model 2 also included smoking quit-time (time in years since ever-smokers permanently quit smoking). External validation was performed with 44 223 PLCO intervention arm participants who completed a supplemental questionnaire and were subsequently followed. Known available risk factors were included in logistic regression models. Bootstrap optimism-corrected estimates of predictive performance were calculated (internal validation). Nonlinear relationships for age, pack-years smoked, smoking duration, and quit-time were modeled using restricted cubic splines. All reported P values are two-sided.
During follow-up (median 9.2 years) of the control arm subjects, 1040 lung cancers occurred. During follow-up of the external validation sample (median 3.0 years), 213 lung cancers occurred. For models 1 and 2, bootstrap optimism-corrected receiver operator characteristic area under the curves were 0.857 and 0.805, and calibration slopes (model-predicted probabilities vs observed probabilities) were 0.987 and 0.979, respectively. In the external validation sample, models 1 and 2 had area under the curves of 0.841 and 0.784, respectively. These models had high discrimination in women, men, whites, and nonwhites.
The PLCO lung cancer risk models demonstrate high discrimination and calibration.
PMCID: PMC3131220  PMID: 21606442
7.  Lung Cancer Screening in the Randomized Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial 
The 5-year overall survival rate of lung cancer patients is approximately 15%. Most patients are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease and have shorter survival rates than patients with early-stage disease. Although screening for lung cancer has the potential to increase early diagnosis, it has not been shown to reduce lung cancer mortality rates. In 1993, the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial was initiated specifically to determine whether screening would reduce mortality rates from PLCO cancers.
A total of 77 464 participants, aged 55–74 years, were randomly assigned to the intervention arm of the PLCO Cancer Screening Trial between November 8, 1993, and July 2, 2001. Participants received a baseline chest radiograph (CXR), followed by three annual single-view CXRs at the 10 US screening centers. Cancers were classified as screen detected and nonscreen detected (interval or never screened) and according to tumor histology. The positivity rates of screen-detected cancers and positive predictive values (PPVs) were calculated. Because 51.6% of the participants were current or former smokers, logistic regression analysis was performed to control for smoking status. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Compliance with screening decreased from 86.6% at baseline to 78.9% at the last screening. Overall positivity rates were 8.9% at baseline and 6.6%–7.1% at subsequent screenings; positivity rates increased modestly with smoking risk categories (Ptrend < .001). The PPVs for all participants were 2.0% at baseline and 1.1%, 1.5%, and 2.4% at years 1, 2, and 3, respectively; PPVs in current smokers were 5.9% at baseline and 3.3%, 4.2%, and 5.6% at years 1, 2, and 3, respectively. A total of 564 lung cancers were diagnosed, of which 306 (54%) were screen-detected cancers and 87% were non–small cell lung cancers. Among non–small cell lung cancers, 59.6% of screen-detected cancers and 33.3% of interval cancers were early (I–II) stage.
The PLCO Cancer Screening Trial demonstrated the ability to recruit, retain, and screen a large population over multiple years at multiple centers. A higher proportion of screen-detected lung cancers were early stage, but a conclusion on the effectiveness of CXR screening must await final PLCO results, which are anticipated at the end of 2015.
PMCID: PMC2873186  PMID: 20442215
8.  Race and Colorectal Cancer Disparities: Health-Care Utilization vs Different Cancer Susceptibilities 
It is unclear whether the disproportionately higher incidence and mortality from colorectal cancer among blacks compared with whites reflect differences in health-care utilization or colorectal cancer susceptibility.
A total of 60 572 non-Hispanic white and black participants in the ongoing Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial underwent trial-sponsored screening flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSG) without biopsy at baseline in 10 geographically dispersed centers from November 1993 to July 2001. Subjects with polyps or mass lesions detected by FSG were referred to their physicians for diagnostic workup, the cost of which was not covered by PLCO. The records of follow-up evaluations were collected and reviewed. We used log binomial modeling with adjustment for age, education, sex, body mass index, smoking, family history of colorectal cancer, colon examination within previous 3 years, personal history of polyps, and screening center to examine whether utilization of diagnostic colonoscopy and yield of neoplasia differed by race.
Among 57 561 whites and 3011 blacks who underwent FSG, 13 743 (23.9%) and 767 (25.5%) had abnormal examinations, respectively. A total of 9944 (72.4%) whites and 480 (62.6%) blacks had diagnostic colonoscopy within 1 year following the abnormal FSG screening. When compared with whites, blacks were less likely to undergo diagnostic evaluation (adjusted risk ratio = 0.88, 95% confidence interval = 0.83 to 0.93). Overall, among subjects with diagnostic colonoscopy (n = 10 424), there was no statistically significant difference by race in the prevalence of adenoma, advanced adenoma, advanced pathology in small adenomas (high-grade dysplasia or villous histology in adenomas <10 mm), or colorectal cancer.
We observed a lower follow-up for screen-detected abnormalities among blacks when compared with whites but little difference in the yield of colorectal neoplasia. Health-care utilization may be playing more of a role in colorectal cancer racial disparity than biology.
PMCID: PMC2857802  PMID: 20357245
9.  Mortality Results from a Randomized Prostate-Cancer Screening Trial 
The New England journal of medicine  2009;360(13):1310-1319.
The effect of screening with prostate-specific–antigen (PSA) testing and digital rectal examination on the rate of death from prostate cancer is unknown. This is the first report from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial on prostate-cancer mortality.
From 1993 through 2001, we randomly assigned 76,693 men at 10 U.S. study centers to receive either annual screening (38,343 subjects) or usual care as the control (38,350 subjects). Men in the screening group were offered annual PSA testing for 6 years and digital rectal examination for 4 years. The subjects and health care providers received the results and decided on the type of follow-up evaluation. Usual care sometimes included screening, as some organizations have recommended. The numbers of all cancers and deaths and causes of death were ascertained.
In the screening group, rates of compliance were 85% for PSA testing and 86% for digital rectal examination. Rates of screening in the control group increased from 40% in the first year to 52% in the sixth year for PSA testing and ranged from 41 to 46% for digital rectal examination. After 7 years of follow-up, the incidence of prostate cancer per 10,000 person-years was 116 (2820 cancers) in the screening group and 95 (2322 cancers) in the control group (rate ratio, 1.22; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16 to 1.29). The incidence of death per 10,000 person-years was 2.0 (50 deaths) in the screening group and 1.7 (44 deaths) in the control group (rate ratio, 1.13;95% CI,0.75 to 1.70). The data at 10 years were 67% complete and consistent with these overall findings.
After 7 to 10 years of follow-up, the rate of death from prostate cancer was very low and did not differ significantly between the two study groups.
PMCID: PMC2944770  PMID: 19297565
11.  SLC6A3 and body mass index in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial 
BMC Medical Genetics  2009;10:9.
To investigate the contribution of the dopamine transporter to dopaminergic reward-related behaviors and anthropometry, we evaluated associations between polymorphisms at the dopamine transporter gene(SLC6A3) and body mass index (BMI), among participants in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial.
Four polymorphisms (rs6350, rs6413429, rs6347 and the 3' variable number of tandem repeat (3' VNTR) polymorphism) at the SLC6A3 gene were genotyped in 2,364 participants selected from the screening arm of PLCO randomly within strata of sex, age and smoking history. Height and weight at ages 20 and 50 years and baseline were assessed by questionnaire. BMI was calculated and categorized as underweight, normal, overweight and obese (<18.5, 18.5–24.9, 25.0–29.9, or ≥ 30 kg/m2, respectively). Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of SLC6A3 genotypes and haplotypes were computed using conditional logistic regression.
Compared with individuals having a normal BMI, obese individuals at the time of the baseline study questionnaire were less likely to possess the 3' VNTR variant allele with 9 copies of the repeated sequence in a dose-dependent model (** is referent; OR*9 = 0.80, OR99 = 0.47, ptrend = 0.005). Compared with individuals having a normal BMI at age 50, overweight individuals (A-C-G-* is referent; ORA-C-G-9 = 0.80, 95% CI 0.65–0.99, p = 0.04) and obese individuals (A-C-G-* is referent; ORA-C-G-9 = 0.70, 95% CI 0.49–0.99, p = 0.04) were less likely to possess the haplotype with the 3'variant allele (A-C-G-9).
Our results support a role of genetic variation at the dopamine transporter gene, SLC6A3, as a modifier of BMI.
PMCID: PMC2640369  PMID: 19183461

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