The American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated the recommendations for lung cancer screening, expanding the age range for people who are at higher risk of the disease due to smoking.

"Yearly screening for lung cancer with a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan is recommended for people aged 50–80 years who smoke or who used to smoke and who have at least a 20-pack-year history of smoking," the updated guidelines read.

One pack-year is when someone smokes one pack or about 20 cigarettes per day for a year.

The previous recommendation was to start screening from the age of 55 and continue till 74. The updated guidelines not only include a wider age group but also suggest smokers who quit the habit undergo screening based on their level of smoking.

Lung cancer is the third most common form of cancer and a leading cause of death in the U.S. However, with adequate screening and better treatment procedures, the deaths have declined in recent years.

Persistent cough, bone pain, headache, chest pain, shortness of breath and coughing up blood are some of the signs of lung cancer. In most cases, patients may not have symptoms in the initial stages when the treatments can be most effective. Early screening helps to identify the disease before it progresses.

"There are so many new treatments out now for lung cancer, so many new targeted therapies, that the chances for survival are so much better if one is diagnosed earlier on," ACS's chief scientific officer Dr. William Dahut said.

Who is at risk?

"People who smoke or used to smoke are at higher risk for lung cancer, and this risk goes up based on how much and how long someone has smoked. Although quitting smoking lowers the risk of lung cancer over time compared to continuing smoking, the risk is still higher than among people who have never smoked," the updated guidelines said.

Cigarette smoking increases the cancer risk by around 30 times and is linked to 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths.

Apart from cigarette smoking, vaping, secondary smoke, exposure to air pollution and chemicals such as radon, asbestos, uranium, diesel exhaust, silica and coal products raise the risk of lung cancer. People with a family history of lung cancer and those who have done radiation therapy to the chest are also at higher risk.