Low-dose CT is more effective at preventing deaths from lung cancer than a chest X-ray, according to a new study conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The NCI’s National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) was designed to compare the effects of low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) with a standard chest X-ray in preventing lung cancer deaths.

The randomised national trial enrolled more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers in the 55-74 age range, who received three annual screens with either a low-dose helical CT or a chest X-ray.

The study findings showed that trial participants screened with a low-dose helical CT had 20% fewer lung cancer deaths when compared with those who were screened with a chest X-ray.

NLST national principal investigator Denise Aberle said the trial’s results provided objective evidence of the benefits of low-dose helical CT screening in an older, high-risk population.

“The results suggest that if low-dose helical CT screening is implemented responsibly and individuals with abnormalities are judiciously followed we have the potential to save thousands of lives,” added Aberle.