Identifying high-risk individuals for lung cancer screening: Going beyond NLST criteria

PLoS One. 2018 Apr 5;13(4):e0195441. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195441. eCollection 2018.


Background: There are two main types of strategies to identify target population for lung cancer screening: 1) strategies based on age and cumulative smoking criteria, 2) risk prediction models allowing the calculation of an individual risk. The objective of this study was to compare different strategies to identify the proportion of the Spanish population at high risk of developing lung cancer, susceptible to be included in a lung cancer screening programme.

Methods: Cross-sectional study. We used the data of the Spanish National Interview Health Survey (ENSE) of 2011-2012 (21,006 individuals) to estimate the proportion of participants at high risk of developing lung cancer. This estimation was performed using the U.S. national lung screening trial (NLST) criteria and a 6-year prediction model (PLCOm2012), both independently and in combination.

Results: The prevalence of individuals at high risk of developing lung cancer according to the NLST criteria was 4.9% (7.9% for men, 2.4% for women). Among the 1,034 subjects who met the NLST criteria, 533 (427 men and 106 women) had a 6-year lung cancer risk ≥2.0%. The combination of these two selection strategies showed that 2.5% of the Spanish population had a high risk of developing lung cancer. However, this selection process did not take into account different groups of subjects <75 years old having an individual risk of lung cancer ≥2%, such as heavy smokers <55 years old who were long-time former smokers, and ever-smokers having smoked <30 pack-years with other risk factors.

Conclusions: Further research is needed to determine which selection strategy achieves a higher benefit/harm ratio and to assess other prevention strategies for individuals with elevated risk for lung cancer but who do not meet the screening eligibility criteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Grant support

This study has been funded by the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer de Barcelona in the Call for proposals of Research in Oncology of 2016 (grant PROYBAR16909FU). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.