Lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are common disorders. There has been speculation in the past that there may be a linear relationship between COPD and lung cancer. Asked another way: does the severity of a patient’s COPD increase his or her risk for lung cancer proportionately? When researching these questions it may be hard to separate out frequently associated issues.
For example, COPD patients tend to be older, so is age really the culprit? COPD patients tend to have other conditions, could it be one of those that increase the risk of lung cancer? The National Lung Screening Trial has provided us with much information. It was the study that told us that an annual low dose CT scan of the chest in 30+ pack year smokers between the ages of 55 and 75 can reduce the mortality of lung cancer by 20% by picking up the cancers early and giving the patient a better chance at cure. The original group that was studied was over 55,000 patients. It also told us that black patients, current smokers, and women benefit most from the screenings. Some of the patients had pulmonary function studies done during the initial trial. Based on the correlation between pulmonary function abnormalities and lung cancer incidence, it is now clear that COPD is an independent risk factor for lung cancer, and the more severe your COPD the higher your risk. If you have COPD, ask your physician about joining an Early Detection Program for lung cancer screening.