Early lung cancer detection: results of the initial (prevalence) radiologic and cytologic screening in the Johns Hopkins study

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1984 Oct;130(4):549-54. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1984.130.4.549.


The Johns Hopkins Lung Project was designed to determine whether the addition of cytologic screening to the radiographic screening of high-risk volunteers could enhance the early detection of asymptomatic lung cancer and whether early therapeutic intervention in detected cases could significantly reduce the mortality from this disease. Male volunteers, 45 yr of age and older, who smoked at least 1 pack of cigarettes per day were recruited from the Baltimore metropolitan area. All of the 10,387 acceptable high-risk volunteers received annual chest radiographic screening. By random assignment, one half received cytologic examination of induced sputum in addition to the roentgenogram. This report describes the results of the initial screening. Compared with usual methods of clinical diagnosis, screening by both roentgenography and cytology identified a greater proportion of the lung cancer cases at an earlier stage. Screening by sputum cytology was found to improve the detection only of squamous cell carcinoma. In the dual-screen group, sputum cytology accounted for 28% of the detected cases, and resulted in 39% additional detection of lung cancer over that achieved by roentgenography. There was no corresponding decrease in prevalence. Lung cancers detected by cytology alone were found at very early stages. Although there has been an increase in average survival, much of this increase, if not all, may have resulted from lead-time and sampling bias.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography, Thoracic*
  • Sputum / cytology*
  • Time Factors