New Program Aims to Reduce Lung Cancer Deaths in Italy
Milan, Italy – A new program called RISP (Italian Study on Smoking Risk Reduction) has been launched in Italy with the aim of reducing lung cancer deaths through early detection and smoking cessation. The program, funded by the Ministry of Health, is being conducted by the National Cancer Institute of Milan (INT) in collaboration with 17 other centers across the country.
The RISP program is open to smokers with an average consumption of 20 cigarettes a day for 30 years, or former heavy smokers who have quit for less than 15 years, aged between 55 and 75. Participants will undergo periodic low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to detect any nodules in the lungs. The CT scans are quick, non-invasive, and have a minimal dose of radiation. In addition to lung cancer, the scans can also detect respiratory and cardiac pathologies.
To support smokers in quitting, the Milanese INT is distributing a drug called cytisine to the participating centers. Cytisine is an anti-smoking drug with few side effects and does not create addiction like nicotine. The drug is administered over a 40-day period, with smoking cessation scheduled between the eighth and 14th day. The hope is that providing support for smokers to quit will further reduce lung cancer deaths.
According to statistics, approximately 115 people in Italy discover they have lung cancer every day. More than 70% of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage, reducing their chances of survival. About 85% of lung cancer patients have a history of tobacco use. The RISP program aims to demonstrate that early detection through low-dose CT scans and smoking cessation can significantly reduce lung cancer mortality in high-risk heavy smokers.
The RISP program is being conducted in 18 selected centers across 15 Regions in Italy, including Lombardy, Lazio, Veneto, and Tuscany. The program also utilizes artificial intelligence to analyze the CT scan results, reducing false positives and unnecessary surgical interventions. The CT scans can also provide additional information on the health of the heart and lungs, helping to detect other smoking-related pathologies.
The program also highlights the gender issue in lung cancer, with the disease now being the second most common malignancy in men and the third in women. The increase in lung cancer cases among women is attributed to the rise in smoking habits, with one in ten women starting smoking before the age of 15. Prevention campaigns targeting different segments of the population are seen as necessary to address this issue.
Despite the challenges, early detection of lung cancer can significantly improve survival rates. “Thanks to screening, it is possible to receive a diagnosis at an early stage when there is a concrete possibility of healing,” says Francesco Facciolo, director of Thoracic Surgery at the Regina Elena Institute in Rome. Surgery performed at an early stage has a long-term survival rate of over 80%.
The RISP program aims to recruit 10,000 volunteers over an 18-month period. The program has already seen a 50% enrollment rate, with efforts to inform the population through partnerships with pharmacies across the country. In addition to the CT screening, participants are also provided with support for smoking cessation, resulting in a high percentage of success.
If the results of the RISP program confirm its hypotheses, the hope is to incorporate the approach into the essential levels of assistance covered by the National Health Service, making the low-dose CT scans and anti-smoking drugs reimbursable for high-risk individuals.
With the implementation of the RISP program and ongoing efforts to promote smoking cessation, Italy aims to reduce lung cancer deaths and improve the overall health outcomes for its population.