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Routine COPD case-finding picks up lung cancers

Identifying people with COPD at an early stage is the key to picking up more cases of lung cancer, a new study concludes.

Their review of the evidence found patients with COPD had a five-fold increased risk of lung cancer, which the researchers said was sufficient to justify CT screening among those diagnosed with the disease.

Around 1% of patients with COPD developed lung cancer each year, compared with 0.2% without the disease, the review found.

Routinely testing lung function of former and active smokers could help to identify COPD at an early stage, and if COPD was identified, patients should then be screened by CT scan to detect lung cancer at an early stage, the researchers concluded.

Study leader Yasuo Sekine, an associate profession at Tokyo Women's Medical University, said: ‘Both COPD and lung cancer have high mortality rates and a serious economic impact worldwide. The findings from our analysis suggest that early detection of COPD in addition to lung cancer screening for these patients could be an effective detection technique for lung cancer.'

European Respiratory Journal 2011, online 16 November

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