iStock-1299730658 Medical MRI Scan on digital screen

Supporting smokers with new lung health checks will save thousands of lives

Tuesday, 27 June 2023

Researchers and national cancer charities strongly welcome the Government decision to back National Screening Committee recommendations for a new national screening programme for lung cancer with smoking cessation support as ‘integral’ [1].

Researchers at the University of Nottingham, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, tested integrated smoking cessation support for people receiving lung cancer screening [2]. Over 80% of individuals reporting current smoking at the time of attending for screening accepted an offer of stop smoking support and over 30% of these reported successfully quitting smoking, demonstrating the power of having a support as part of the screening process.

It is estimated those who quit smoking between the ages of 55-59 will have half the risk of lung cancer death compared to current smokers [3] and for those aged 55-74, seven years of smoking cessation reduced lung-cancer specific mortality by 20% [4]

"Our research shows with the right support, provided at the right time we can help people stop smoking for good and save many lives in the process.”
Professor Rachael Murray, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham

Professor Rachael Murray, who led the Yorkshire Cancer Research funded study, said: “This group of smokers are particularly highly addicted and need support to stop. Helping them to quit will avoid many futures illnesses and improve the outcomes of treatment if they do get sick.

“It also reduces health inequalities with these smokers much more likely to be on low incomes and living in disadvantaged circumstances. Our research shows with the right support, provided at the right time we can help people stop smoking for good and save many lives in the process.”

A survey last year by charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) [5] found that in local authority areas that already had lung health checks 73% had seen an increase in demand for support to stop smoking. Community stop smoking support is currently the responsibility of local government, but The Health Foundation have reported that funding for services has fallen by 45% since 2015/16 [6].

This reflects the experience of the Cornish stop smoking service. In Cornwall, where the lung health checks have already been rolled out, a local decision was taken to link screening with specialist stop-smoking service Healthy Cornwall which is part of Cornwall Council. The Lung Health Check team were trained by the council team to have meaningful conversations about smoking and refer into the stop smoking service. The approach has proved to be a great success for those who take up support with 47 per cent being smokefree at four weeks. However, the lack of funding has created challenges for the service.

Lewis Jones, Head of Healthy Cornwall, added: “We welcomed the opportunity to work closely with the Lung Health Check programme to make sure smokers in Cornwall had support. However, it has been a challenge to meet the level of demand from the service as funding for stop-smoking support was not part of the programme design. Proper funding will mean we’re able to deliver for these smokers and smokers across the rest of Cornwall.”


[2] Murray RL, Brain K, Britton J, Lewis S, Thorley R, Baldwin D, et al. PL03.03 Personalised Smoking Cessation Support in a Lung Cancer Screening Programme: The Yorkshire Enhanced Stop Smoking Study (YESS). In: International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer 2022 World Conference. Vienna, Austria; 2022

[3] Halpern MT, Gillespie BW, Warner KE. Patterns of absolute risk of lung cancer mortality 33 in former smokers. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst. 1993;85(6):457–64

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For further information, please contact Professor Rachael Murray, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham 

Adam Mallaby - Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (Maternity Cover)
Phone: 0115 748 5719

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