Mass judge approves lung cancer screening suit

With the debate over mammography churning up the issue of over-diagnosis – too many false positive tests –  the push for lung cancer screening has lost a lot of its momentum.

In 2008 the USPSTF (Preventative Service Task Force)   concluded that the” current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of the service. Evidence is lacking, of poor quality, or conflicting, and the balance of benefits and harms cannot be determined.”

But the Lung Cancer Alliance reports: The U.S. National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) launched by NCI in 2002, is comparing the mortality impact of chest x-rays to CT scans. The original completion date of 2009 has been moved to 2012 but it is not clear when any of the results will be published.

 Still, a lot of former and current heavy Marlboro  smokers want to know what is in their lungs. A Massachusetts judge has ruled that they can proceed with a class action suit that would force tobacco maker to pay for the scans.

 The Globe had a brief:

US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner granted the class certification Thursday and said she would let the case go to trial on claims that the cigarette manufacturer designed a product that delivered excessive levels of carcinogens. 

Philip Morris USA Inc. said it plans to appeal…“The overwhelming majority of federal and state courts have rejected class certification of smokers’ claims, including those seeking medical monitoring, because the claims raise issues unique to each individual smoker,’’ said Murray Garnick, a spokesman for the company.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch had a longer story:

The smokers argued that even though they have not been diagnosed with lung cancer, they have received an injury — damage to the tissues and structures of their lungs — that gives them a substantially increased risk of cancer. They claim the injury was caused by Philip Morris’ negligence by manufacturing Marlboro cigarettes that contain a dangerous quantity of carcinogens, and that they are entitled to medical monitoring to determine whether they do contract cancer.

“It’s a big step for the plaintiffs . . . for the court to recognize that there are types of harm that aren’t always apparent to the naked eye,” said Edward Foye, one of the smokers’ attorneys.



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