The United Steelworkers (USW) is calling for a strategy meeting about
occupational lung cancer medical screening.
Last week, the National Cancer Institute released the results of a 10-year
national study involving over 53,000 people which indicated that annual
medical screening with a low-dose helical chest CT scan lowered mortality
due to lung cancer by 20 percent, the USW said in a statement released on
“We are now presented with an enormous opportunity to save workers from
dying from lung cancer,” USW International President Leo W. Gerard said.
“Millions of workers have been exposed to asbestos, silica, chromium,
arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel and combustion products—and all of these
exposures are firmly established as causes of human lung cancer.”
Work-related lung cancer claims 10,000 to 20,000 workers annually and is the
leading occupational cancer in the U.S., the USW said. “The landmark study
is the first ever to prove that a screening method now exists that detects
lung cancer at an early stage, one that permits early treatment and cure.
The results were so convincing that the NCI halted the study early in order
to inform participants and the general public about the effectiveness of
applying low dose chest CT scans for the detection and treatment of lung
The USW currently sponsors the largest occupational lung-cancer screening
program in the United States, apart from the NCI trial. It is the CT
scan-based Early Lung Cancer Detection Program and is co-sponsored by Queens
College (City University of New York), and the Atomic Trades & Labor
This program, funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), uses the same CT
scan technique as the NCI trial and has screened over 10,000 nuclear weapons
workers in three states between 2000 and 2010, the USW said. Some 70 lung
cancers, three-quarters of which are at an early stage, have been detected.
“Union health and safety leaders and others need to meet in the very near
future in Washington DC to devise a strategy for assuring that high risk
workers are among the first to obtain the benefits of this new screening
method,” Gerard said.
Topics for discussion: identifying and notifying workers at high risk of
lung cancer; revising OSHA medical surveillance standards to include lung
cancer screening; stimulating NIOSH to use its educational and research
mechanisms to promote and apply the science of lung cancer screening;
engaging professional organizations, government agencies, and health
insurers to ensure that high-risk workers are a priority in establishing
lung cancer screening programs; disseminating current knowledge about
lung-cancer screening throughout labor and allied organizations; and
identifying and promoting funding for CT-based lung cancer screening.
“The goal is straightforward but urgent,” said Steven Markowitz, MD, the
occupational medicine physician who directs the USW’s Early Lung Cancer
Detection Program. “Workers at high risk of lung cancer should have rapid
access to a high quality, appropriate, comprehensive CT scan-based lung
cancer screening services without financial barriers. We can save many
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America with 850,000
members in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean.
It represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil
refining, atomic energy and the service sector.