New research suggests the current screening guidelines for lung cancer may be putting first responders at risk.
Research shows show about 30 percent of lung cancers are linked to environmental exposures.
Screenings are only recommended for older adults who are long-time smokers, or quit within the past 15 years. But some health experts say first responders should be getting tested due to the typical exposures on the job. The study found that first responders have a 14 percent increased risk of dying from cancer compared to the general population.
For the study, conducted by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health, researchers used low dose CT to scan nearly 200 first responders who had worked for more than 21 years.
Forty-four percent of the scans resulted in abnormal findings that required follow-up.
"Current practice for lung cancer screenings in most U.S. fire stations include a chest x-ray every five years, but low-dose lung CT is underutilized," said Dr. Vershalee Shukla, of the Vincere Cancer Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Fire fighters can only obtain a low-dose lung CT at 55 and older per current cancer screening guidelines."
Shukla is proposing that first responders get routine lung cancer screenings beginning at age 40.