Healio reports that occupational exposure to carcinogens has been linked to an estimated 30% of lung cancers, but is typically overshadowed by smoking as a potential risk factor.

“I’ve been studying low-dose lung CT as a screening modality for lung cancer for a long time,” Vershalee Shukla, MD, radiation oncology specialist at Vincere Cancer Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, told Healio“When the National Lung Screening Trial released their data in smokers showing a survival benefit with lung CT, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to help people who are at high risk for lung cancer. Then, 2 months later, I happened to be reading an article about 9/11 and how they are now seeing more lung cancers then they see early on. So, I wondered: Why are we doing this only in smokers? We should be doing this with firefighters.”

That question motivated Shukla and colleagues to evaluate the adequacy of the current screening guidelines to diagnose lung cancer developed through occupational exposure, including among first responders. Their study affirmed the value of low-dose CT for detecting lung cancer among this population. Based on the strength of this study, Shukla was able to spearhead a change to the guidelines in her state of Arizona.