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Sputum cytopathologic monitoring detects squamous cell lung cancers at an extremely early stage (x-ray negative). It holds further potential for preventing disease by detecting epithelial alterations which reflect environmental hazards. The addition of sputum cytology screening to screening by chest x-ray film does not significantly reduce mortality from all types of lung cancer, but preliminary analysis of Johns Hopkins Lung Project data suggests that mortality from squamous cell carcinoma is reduced. Quantitative automated cytopathology systems and biochemical/immunological cell markers enhance understanding of these precursors and offer great promise for increasing capacity, accuracy, and usefulness in cytopathology screening of workers. Cytological specimens collected over years of screening workers considered at risk may beimportant to eventually understanding development and prevention of major occupational diseases.

(C)1986 The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine