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

time period.

Those figures were much higher than the 0.1 percent long-term mortality risk from radiation-induced cancer for both groups, Lee said, and also far higher than the 1 percent chance of death an average young adult faces over a five-year period.

Lee said she didn't know if the results would be applicable to older adults, since younger people are more vulnerable to ionizing radiation in CT scans and more likely to live for the 10 to 20 years considered necessary to develop a radiation-induced cancer.

But even in the past five years -- since the end of the study period -- radiation doses from CT scans have dropped, thanks to newer technology and better attention to medical protocols, Lee noted. Also, patients scanned only once or twice, compared with cancer patients, for example, who might undergo many CT scans over the course of treatment, represented the vast majority of those studied.

"People's perception of risk can get so skewed if they don't see the bigger picture," Lee said. "If you have a 20-year-old with lymphoma ... you need to make sure they're getting cured of the lymphoma first, and if scans are providing additional information for the doctor and them, they need to put that in the bigger picture."

Although the new research seemed to outline the risks and benefits of CT scans for the younger population, one radiology expert criticized the study's methodology.

"The method the authors used to determine that the imaging benefits outweighed the harm was overly simplistic, and I do not believe in any way contributes to the need to understand how to improve the use of imaging," said Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute offers more on CT scans.


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Benefits of CT Scans May Outweigh Cancer Risk for Young Adults
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