The American Cancer Society (ACS) has announced new guidelines for lung cancer screenings.
Published in the ACS journal "CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians" on Wednesday, the advisory reconsiders those who are at high risk for developing lung cancer and which individuals should be screened each year.
The ACS now recommends annual low-dose CT scans for people aged 50 to 80 who have a 20+ pack-year history of smoking, which was previously set at 30.
A pack year is equivalent to smoking one pack, or about 20 cigarettes, per day for one year, according to ACS.
This correlates to a person smoking one pack a day for 20 years, or two packs a day for 10 years.
The number of years since quitting smoking is no longer a qualifier for beginning or discontinuing annual screenings.
This means people who have reached 15 years of being smoke-free will not lose their screening eligibility, as lung cancer risk will still rise with increasing age, the ACS emphasized.
"That means a person who used to smoke with at least a 20 pack-year history, whether they quit yesterday or 20 years ago, is considered to have a high risk for developing lung cancer and should be recommended for a yearly LDCT scan if they don't have a serious health problem that will likely limit how long they will live, or if they won’t be able to or won’t want to get treatment if lung cancer is found," the ACS wrote on its website.
The screening age widened from the previous 55-to-74-year range — broadening eligibility to about five million more people.
The ACS advised those considering screening to practice shared decision-making with a health care professional and to discuss the purpose and function of screenings.
Providers and patients should also discuss the benefits, limitations and harms of LDCT screenings.
The organization also encouraged people who still smoke to seek smoking cessation counseling and consult available resources.
The new guidelines aim to reduce lung cancer deaths in the U.S., where more people die from the disease than from colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
Lung cancer can be treated successfully if it’s detected at an early stage when the cancer is still small and hasn’t spread, according to the ACS.
Mark Dylewski, M.D., chief of thoracic surgery at Miami Cancer Institute, suggested that these guidelines will "probably be flexible over time" as cancer epidemiology is further reviewed, he shared with Fox News Digital in an email.
"The U.S. Preventative Services Taskforce is following the epidemiology of lung cancer in the United States and is motivated to identify the highest risk factors in the largest patient population, so they can influence or guide the patients in making the decision to obtain a screening study," he said.
Dylewsi assumed the changes were likely spurred by recognizing a larger population of early lung cancer cases in younger patients.
This could also be the reason for the reduction of a 30 pack-year to 20, due to a "significant increased risk in that population," he added.
"The whole objective with studies like this is to capture as many high-risk patients in that population as possible to have an impact," he said.
"Overall, across the United States, we are seeing a reduction in the incidence of lung cancer due to many reasons, including patients smoking less frequently and increased community awareness and education."