Background: The Mayo Lung Project (MLP) reported lung cancer incidence and mortality in a population offered chest radiographs and sputum cytologic screening examinations every 4 months and a population offered only the Mayo Clinic advice to undergo annual examination. No mortality benefit attributable to screening was observed after 6 years of observation and at least 1 year of follow-up.
Methods: The authors describe a simulation study designed to estimate from Mayo data the parameters in a mathematical model of the natural history of lung cancer and to estimate the potential benefit associated with periodic screening of high-risk people starting at 45 years of age.
Results: It was found that the mean duration of Stage I non-small cell lung cancer is at least 4 years and that rates of Stage I detectability and curability are less than 25% and 35%, respectively.
Conclusions: A trial of the magnitude, duration, and contamination of the MLP would have a less than 20% probability of showing significant benefit from screening; however, long-term annual screening might result in a modest decrease in lung cancer mortality, ranging from 0% to 13%. A greater benefit would accrue from improved detection and treatment.