Lung Cancer Screening Should Consider Patients’ Occupations


The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults of a certain age range and smoking history receive lung cancer screenings once a year. However, research by Professor Steven Markowitz (Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY) supports the idea that other high-risk groups should receive routine scans, too.

In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, Markowitz and colleagues demonstrate that health professionals should also consider a patient’s occupation when deciding whether to screen for lung cancer. “No screening is harmless, and it also costs money,” Markowitz said. “We work to target those who can best benefit. How do we identify the mix of risk factors and level of risk where benefits clearly outweigh the harms?”

The investigators used low-dose CT scans to conduct initial screenings and one-year follow-ups for over 7,000 nuclear weapons workers across the U.S. These workers can experience exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos, beryllium, and radiation.

“Using occupational exposure as a risk factor in combination with age and smoking history, we found a sizable number of lung cancers,” Markowitz said. “Two-thirds of the cases were at an early stage, when surgery should be able to cure the disease.”

Markowitz also directs the Worker Health Protection Program, which brings free medical screening to workers at Department of Energy sites, to help catch work-related problems in their early stages.

Co-authors also include Amy Manowitz, Amaka Onyekelu-Eze, Albert Miller, and Lewis Pepper (retired) of the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College. Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs in the New Jersey Health Care System, United Steelworkers, and Duke University also collaborated on the study.

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work
“The Occupational Dimension of Lung Cancer Screening”

Work By
Steven Markowitz (Professor, Occupational and Environmental Medicine) | Profile 1 | Profile 2

Colleges and Schools
Queens College
The Graduate Center

Bonus Content
“Why Certain Workers Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer” (GC News)

Related Terms

Beyond SUM