But scientists have now developed a new online tool that can calculate your risk of developing lung cancer. It’s a disease that kills millions of people across the world each year.
The handy calculator, which tests have shown is nearly 90 per cent accurate, has been branded a ‘great idea’ by charities.
It has been hailed as the first test that can predict the risk of lung cancer in those not deemed at high-risk, including light smokers and the young.
Users are quizzed about how long they have smoked for – and how many cigarettes they puff a day, on average. They are two major causes of lung cancer.
However, a team of Norwegian Greek researchers have now added two new risk factors that can lead to lung cancer to their test.
They include: having a nasty cough during certain times of the year and spending a long-time inside smoke-filled rooms.
For those who have quit smoking, they are asked about how long they given up the notoriously bad habit. The risk drops sharply over time.
The other two questions revolve around age, as older people are known to be at a higher risk of lung cancer, and BMI, as the lower this is, the higher the risk.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health, told MailOnline: ‘The lung cancer calculator is a great idea.
It’s a disease that kills millions of people across the world each year. But scientists have now developed a new online tool that can calculate your risk of developing lung cancer
‘Any heavy smoker with a persistent cough, whatever age they are, needs to know it’s an early warning sign.
‘Stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to improve both the quality and the quantity of your life. Don’t wait to be tested to quit.’
Researchers agreed on the seven risk factors after assessing a 16-year-long study, with data from around 65,000 adults aged between 20 and 100.
WHAT ARE THE 7 RISK FACTORS INCLUDED IN THIS NEW TOOL?
- Pack-years (Based on how many years you’ve smoked 20 cigarettes daily.)
- How many cigarettes you’ve smoked daily (A few cigarettes a day for many years is more harmful than many cigarettes for a few years.)
- How long it’s been since you quit smoking (The risk drops over time.)
- Body mass index (BMI; the lower your BMI the higher the risk.)
Two new factors have been added:
- Periodical daily cough (Increases risk.)
- How many hours a day you’re exposed to smoke indoors (Increases risk.)
They then used the same factors to try and predict the risk of lung cancer in 45,000 different people.
The findings about the test, called the HUNT Lung Cancer Risk Model, have been published in the EBioMedicine journal.
Dr Oluf Dimitri Røe, a senior oncologist at Levanger Hospital in Trøndelag, who led the study, found the test was nearly 88 per cent accurate.
Researchers hope the findings will allow for doctors to cut down on doling out CT scans to smokers they think are at risk of lung cancer.
Dr Røe and colleagues, from the University of Crete, have warned the scans, which use small radiation doses, are expensive and can be harmful.
He said: ‘The method can reduce the number of people exposed to radiation from unnecessary CT scans, and maximise identification of persons with true risk.
‘It is also the first model that can accurately predict lung cancer in light smokers, younger people, and people who quit smoking many years before.’
The researchers are now working on other methods of spotting lung cancer early, including a simple blood test that could be used alongside the tool.
This could then provide even clearer results and further slash the number of people who need to undergo repeated CT scans.
Every year, 1.6 million people die of lung cancer, according to figures. This includes 35,000 in the UK and around 150,000 in the US.
The new study suggested that six per cent of these have never smoked, while 21 per cent were younger than 55.
Professor Samuel Janes, medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘Anybody can get lung cancer – though it is more common in smokers than people that have never smoked.’