New Australian Algorithm Can Accurately Predict the Likelihood of Lung Cancer

Time is truly of the essence when it comes to dealing with lung cancer. While being the fifth most common cancer in Australia, it is the most common cause of cancer death in the country. 1 in 13 men and 1 in 22 women are diagnosed with lung cancer by the age of 85, and the five year survival rate of lung cancer is concerningly less than 14%. On top of this, there is no routine screening test for lung cancer.

Fortunately, there has been an increasing amount of attention and funding into research and treatment of lung cancer. One recent breakthrough has been a tool developed by leading researchers that can predict the likelihood of lung cancer developing in smokers and ex-smokers, the most likely demographic to develop the condition. Called the PLCO m2012, it is a mathematical algorithm produced by researchers in the USA and Canada, and can predict lung cancer by analysing a variety of risk factors, including age, smoking intensity, duration and years since quitting smoking, alongside more general factors like body mass index and family history of lung cancer. Using these factors, the algorithm aims to predict the likelihood of someone developing lung cancer within the next 6 years.

Based on a study of almost 100,000 current and former smokers in Australia, it was found that the tool had an accuracy rate of nearly 70%. While this is far from perfect, the tool is better and more accurate than other forms of testing that currently exist. It is also a good way to analyse the overall health of those that are at greater risk of developing cancer owing to a history of smoking, and is useful for identifying problem areas when it comes to the health of an individual and working to address them accordingly.

According to research, 80% of the people that develop lung cancer are those that are or were smokers. And while tools such as the PLCO m2012 show that the future for the early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer is on a positive trajectory, medical professionals will always advise that there is better solution than to quit smoking as soon as possible — or to avoid smoking entirely.

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