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Benefits of CT Scans May Outweigh Cancer Risk for Young Adults
Date:2/5/2013

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The potential cancer risk that younger adults face from exposure to CT scans pales in comparison to the actual threat posed by health conditions driving the use of the imaging technology, a new study indicates.

Examining medical records from about 22,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 35 who underwent CT scans on their chest, abdomen or pelvis, scientists determined that patients were far more likely to die from conditions prompting the scan -- such as trauma, abdominal pain or difficulty breathing -- than to develop a fatal cancer because of radiation from the scan itself.

"We realized that these people were coming in with very serious medical problems ... and a lot of them were really sick, but not dying from cancer," said study author Dr. Susanna Lee, chief of women's imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"From a radiologist's point of view, this actually helps me have a more informed discussion with my patients when we're talking about the risks and benefits of getting a scan," Lee added. "It gives me a better assessment as far as explaining what they're up against. It favors getting more information."

The study was published online Feb. 5 in the journal Radiology.

The rate of CT use has increased about 10 percent annually over the past 15 years, according to the study, and nearly 80 million CT scans were done in the United States alone in 2010. Computer models have estimated that up to 2 percent of cancers in the United States can be attributed to CT scanning.

The patients analyzed underwent a cumulative 41,000 scans of the chest, abdomen or pelvis between 2003 and 2007. Followed for an average of five and a half years, about 7 percent and 4 percent of those having chest and abdominopelvic CT scans, respectively, died in that
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