Association of Computed Tomographic Screening Promotion with Lung Cancer Overdiagnosis among Asian Women

Wayne Gao, Chi Pang Wen, Allison Wu, H. Gilbert Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Importance: As smoking continues to decline in many developed countries, the proportion of lung cancers in nonsmokers will rise. This shift may create substantial pressure to further expand lung cancer screening to lower-risk groups. Objective: To determine the association of lung cancer incidence with the promotion of screening in a largely nonsmoking population. Design, Setting, and Participants: This population-based ecological cohort study of stage-specific lung cancer incidence used the Taiwan Cancer Registry to identify women diagnosed with lung cancer from January 1, 2004, to December 31, 2018. Smoking prevalence among Taiwanese women has been less than 5% since 1980. Data were analyzed from February 13, 2020, to November 10, 2021. Exposures: Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening for lung cancer, initiated during the early 2000s. Main Outcomes and Measures: Change in stage-specific lung cancer incidence. An effective cancer screening program will not only increase the incidence of early-stage cancer but also decrease the incidence of cancer presenting at a late stage. Results: A total of 57898 women were diagnosed with lung cancer in a population of approximately 12 million Taiwanese women. After the introduction of LDCT screening, the incidence of early-stage (stages 0-I) lung cancer in women increased more than 6-fold, from 2.3 to 14.4 per 100000 population (absolute difference, 12.1 [95% CI, 11.3-12.8]) from 2004 to 2018. There was no change, however, in the incidence of late-stage (stages II-IV) lung cancer, from 18.7 to 19.3 per 100000 (absolute difference, 0.6 [95% CI,-0.5 to 1.7]). Because the additional 12.1 per 100000 early-stage cancers were not accompanied by a concomitant decline in late-stage cancers, virtually all the additional cancers detected represent overdiagnosis. Despite stable mortality, 5-year survival more than doubled from 2004 to 2013, from 18% to 40%, which is arguably the highest lung cancer survival rate in the world. Conclusions and Relevance: This population-based ecological cohort study found that low-dose computed tomographic screening of mostly nonsmoking Asian women was associated with considerable lung cancer overdiagnosis. Five-year survival is biased by the increased LDCT detection of indolent early-stage lung cancers. Unless randomized trials can demonstrate some value to low-risk groups, LDCT screening should remain targeted only to heavy smokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-290
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Internal Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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