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March 30, 2021

Lung Cancer: UVA Health Expert Helps Develop New National Screening Guidelines

Headshot of Li Li.

Through his role on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, UVA Health’s Li Li, MD, PhD, MPH, has helped develop new lung cancer screening guidelines that expand screenings to more high-risk patients.

The new guidelines are focused on Americans at higher risk because of their history of smoking, which is the leading cause of lung cancer. There are two significant changes in the new guidelines. For those who are still smoking or quit less than 15 years ago, a yearly screening using a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan is now recommended:

  • beginning at age 50, instead of age 55. 
  • for anyone who has smoked 20 pack-years in their lifetime, instead of 30 pack-years. A pack-year equals smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for a year.

The new guidelines came following a review of the latest evidence of the benefits of lung cancer screening by Li and his colleagues on the Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. That evidence showed expanding the criteria would open screenings to more Black people and women, who data shows tend to smoke fewer cigarettes than white men. 

“The new guidelines will have a tremendous impact on primary and secondary prevention of this dreadful cancer,” Li said. “It is a big step forward in reducing lung cancer disparities in Black people and women.”

Screenings are recommended for Americans ages 50 to 80 who meet the 20 pack-year criteria and are still smoking or quit less than 15 years ago. The Task Force recommends that current and former smokers who meet the updated criteria should discuss lung cancer screening with their doctor to determine whether the screening is right for them. 

“Increasing the awareness and uptake of lung cancer screening, together with effective smoking cessation programs, are pressing priorities for UVA Health in its concerted effort to improve the health of residents in our region,” Li said.

More information about the recommendations is available at the Task Force’s website.

About the Task Force

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services, such as screenings, counseling services or preventive medicines. More information is available at

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