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Legacy® and Lung Cancer Alliance Hail the Release of New Study Showing Lung Cancer Screening is Cost Effective

First of its kind actuarial analysis from health insurance payor perspective provides real world analysis of actual costs and lives saved annually

Washington, DC - Legacy and Lung Cancer Alliance hailed the results released today of an actuarial cost-benefit analysis conducted by Milliman, Inc., an internationally recognized actuarial consulting firm, which show that screening 50-64 year olds at high risk for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans can save more lives, and at lower cost than commonly used screening methods for other cancers.

The study was published today in the April 2012 edition of Health Affairs, the nation’s leading peer-reviewed journal on domestic and international health policy.  This analysis was commissioned by Legacy and Lung Cancer Alliance shortly after the National Cancer Institute announced the results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) which proved that low dose CT screening could reduce lung cancer deaths by at least 20% in a high risk population of 55-74 year old current and former smokers. 

“There is reason to believe that comparative rates of lung cancer survival will be even greater than 20%,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, president and CEO of Legacy, who reiterated that lung cancer is the nation’s number one cancer killer of both men and women, accounting for 28% of all cancer deaths. 

Milliman focused its actuarial analysis on the cost and benefit of screening a commercially insured population of high-risk 50-64 year olds. The data indicated that CT screening would avoid 15,000 deaths a year in that population alone. Screening high risk populations older that 64 would save an even higher number of lives each year.  The analysis factors in the cost of cessation help for current smokers who now constitute about one in three new cases of lung cancer.

The cost per life-year saved - a commonly used measurement of public health value - is under $19,000.  By comparison, the cost per life year saved for mammography screening is $31,000 to $51,000 and for colorectal cancer screening is $19,000 to $29,000.  A key consideration in health insurance is how a new benefit would impact the monthly cost to employers, which currently averages $300 a month or more for each person covered.

The cost of adding CT screening would be $0.76 per member per month. In 2006, the cost of breast screening was $2.50 per member per month and the cost for colon cancer screening $0.96, amounts conservatively equivalent to $3.16 and $1.20 in today’s dollars. 

Laurie Fenton-Ambrose, President and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance said, “The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial provided us with scientific validation that lung cancer screening saves lives. That was step one. Now we have actuarial validation that lung cancer screening is also cost effective. This is step two. Step three is providing this benefit responsibly to those at risk -- now,” she said.

Both Healton and Fenton-Ambrose reiterated the need to move forward aggressively to ensure that high quality lung cancer screening for high risk populations is embedded into the public health infrastructure so that fewer lives are needlessly lost to lung cancer.

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Legacy is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps American live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation’s programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit www.legacyforhealth.org.

Lung Cancer Alliance, www.lungcanceralliance.org, is committed to ending injustice and saving lives through an alliance of advocacy, education and support. LCA provides live, real time support, referral and information services for patients, their loved ones and those at risk for lung cancer; conducts national awareness campaigns; and advocates for multiple millions in public health dollars for lung cancer research.