The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022 an estimated 236,740 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed and 130,180 deaths will occur from this disease. Lung cancer accounts for almost 25% of all cancer deaths in the US. Most cases occur in individuals who are 65 years or older; however, a very small number of people who are younger than 45 years may be diagnosed.

Emphysema is a lower respiratory tract disease, characterized by a breakdown of the walls of the alveoli, or breathing sacs in the lungs. Cigarette smoking is one of the important shared risk factors for emphysema and lung cancer. A new study has found that both visual and quantitative emphysema assessed by chest computed tomography (CT) were associated with a higher odds ratio of lung cancer, and this association increased with emphysema severity.

“Potentially, emphysema detected on a baseline CT scan could be used to select high-risk participants who would require more frequent follow-up lung cancer screening,” said study co-author Marleen Vonder, Ph.D., from the Department of Epidemiology at University Medical Center Groningen in Groningen, the Netherlands.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of 21 studies including 107 082 patients comparing the association of chest CT–defined emphysema with lung cancer. They found that the overall pooled odds ratio (OR) for lung cancer increased with emphysema severity and was higher for visual assessment (OR: 2.5, 3.7, and 4.5 for trace, mild, and moderate to severe emphysema, respectively) compared with quantitative assessment (OR: 1.9, 2.2, and 2.5, respectively).

While the findings support a link between emphysema and lung cancer, more research is needed before any changes are made to clinical care, Dr. Vonder said.

The full study may be read here.



Photo by Anna Shvets