Purpose: Aim was to assess CT characteristics of lung nodules in never and former smokers compared to current smokers in a population-based setting.
Method: We included individuals aged 45–60 years taking part in the ImaLife (Imaging in Lifelines) study, with at least one solid lung nodule (≥30 mm3) on low-dose chest CT. Qualitative (location, shape, margin, nodule type, attached structures) and quantitative (count, diameter, volume) nodule characteristics were evaluated. Based on Fleischner criteria, ‘high risk’ nodules were defined. To examine the association between smoking status and nodule CT characteristics of participants, multi-level multinomial logistic regression corrected for clustering of nodules within participants was performed, where all odds ratios (aORs) were adjusted for age and sex.
Results: Overall, 1,639 individuals (median age: 55.0, IQR:50.5–58.5, 50.5% men) were included, with 42.1% never smokers, 35.3% former smokers and 22.6% current smokers. A total of 3,222 solid nodules were identified; 39.7% of individuals had multiple nodules. Nodule size, location, type and attachment were similar for never compared to current smokers. The odds of nodules with an irregular shape and irregular margin was lower in never smokers (aOR:0.64, 95 %CI:0.44–0.93; aOR:0.60, 95 %CI:0.41–0.88, respectively) and former smokers (aOR:0.61, 95 %CI:0.41–0.90; aOR:0.57, 95 %CI:0.38–0.85, respectively) compared to current smokers. The odds of a detected nodule being ‘high risk’ was similar for never versus current smokers (never smokers: aOR = 0.90; 95% CI:0.73–1.11).
Conclusions: CT-based characteristics of solid lung nodules in never and former smokers differed only slightly from current smokers. Among individuals with solid nodules, ‘high-risk’ nodules were equally common in never smokers and current smokers.