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17-11-2011 | General practice | Article

Early COPD detection ‘vital’


Eur Respir J 2011; Advance online publication

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are five times as likely to develop lung cancer as people with normal lung function, researchers say.

Their findings "suggest that early detection of COPD in addition to lung cancer screening for these patients could be an effective detection technique for lung cancer," said Dr Yasuo Sekine, from Tokyo Women's Medical University, Japan, who led the team.

The review of evidence published over the past 20 years showed that around 1% of patients with COPD develop lung cancer each year, compared with 0.2% of people with normal lung function.

The researchers say that COPD screening using pulmonary function tests should be initiated as early as possible in smokers, so that they stop smoking.

And they propose that diagnosis of COPD should be made by spirometric criteria using bronchodilators, to allow effective risk stratification for lung cancer screening.

The report coincided with the World COPD Day initiative to raise awareness of the condition.

Monica Fletcher, Chair of the European Lung Foundation, said: "People frequently ignore the symptoms of lung disease and leave it too late before going to the doctor. This research highlights the need for routine lung function tests, known as spirometry, to help improve quality of life and identify other conditions that could be present."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price