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Background: Given the different methods of assessing emphysema, controversy exists as to whether it is associated with lung cancer.

Purpose: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between chest CT-defined emphysema and the presence of lung cancer.

Materials and Methods: The PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched up to July 15, 2021, to identify studies on the association between emphysema assessed visually or quantitatively with CT and lung cancer. Associations were determined by emphysema severity (trace, mild, or moderate to severe, assessed visually and quantitatively) and subtype (centrilobular and paraseptal, assessed visually). Overall and stratified pooled odds ratios (ORs) with their 95% CIs were obtained.

Results: Of the 3343 screened studies, 21 studies (107 082 patients) with 26 subsets were included. The overall pooled ORs for lung cancer given the presence of emphysema were 2.3 (95% CI: 2.0, 2.6; I2 = 35%; 19 subsets) and 1.02 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.02; six subsets) per 1% increase in low attenuation area. Studies with visual (pooled OR, 2.3; 95% CI: 1.9, 2.6; I2 = 48%; 12 subsets) and quantitative (pooled OR, 2.2; 95% CI: 1.8, 2.8; I2 = 3.7%; eight subsets) assessments yielded comparable results for the dichotomous assessment. Based on six studies (1716 patients), the pooled ORs for lung cancer increased with emphysema severity and were higher for visual assessment (2.5, 3.7, and 4.5 for trace, mild, and moderate to severe, respectively) than for quantitative assessment (1.9, 2.2, and 2.5) based on point estimates. Compared with no emphysema, only centrilobular emphysema (three studies) was associated with lung cancer (pooled OR, 2.2; 95% CI: 1.5, 3.2; P < .001).

Conclusion: Both visual and quantitative CT assessments of emphysema were associated with a higher odds of lung cancer, which also increased with emphysema severity. Regarding subtype, only centrilobular emphysema was significantly associated with lung cancer. Clinical trial registration no. CRD42021262163 © RSNA, 2022 See also the editorial by Hunsaker in this issue. Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322–330
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date3-May-2022
Publication statusPublished - 3-Aug-2022


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