Background: Interstitial lung abnormalities (ILA) can be detected on computed tomography (CT) in lung cancer patients and have an association with mortality in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. The aim of this study is to demonstrate the significance of ILA for mortality in patients with stage I NSCLC using Boston Lung Cancer Study cohort. Methods: Two hundred and thirty-one patients with stage I NSCLC from 2000 to 2011 were investigated in this retrospective study (median age, 69 years; 93 males, 138 females). ILA was scored on baseline CT scans prior to treatment using a 3-point scale (0 = no evidence of ILA, 1 = equivocal for ILA, 2 = ILA) by a sequential reading method. ILA score 2 was considered the presence of ILA. The difference of overall survival (OS) for patients with different ILA scores were tested via log-rank test and multivariate Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) including ILA score, age, sex, smoking status, and treatment as the confounding variables. Results: ILA was present in 22 out of 231 patients (9.5%) with stage I NSCLC. The presence of ILA was associated with shorter OS (patients with ILA score 2, median 3.85 years [95% confidence interval (CI): 3.36 – not reached (NR)]; patients with ILA score 0 or 1, median 10.16 years [95%CI: 8.65 - NR]; P < 0.0001). In a Cox proportional hazards model, the presence of ILA remained significant for increased risk for death (HR = 2.88, P = 0.005) after adjusting for age, sex, smoking and treatment. Conclusions: ILA was detected on CT in 9.5% of patients with stage I NSCLC. The presence of ILA was significantly associated with a shorter OS and could be an imaging marker of shorter survival in stage I NSCLC.
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