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CT Scans May Pose Less Cancer Risk Than Thought, Study Contends
Date:12/1/2010

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of developing cancer as a result of radiation exposure from CT scans may be lower than previously thought, new research suggests.

That finding, scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, is based on an eight-year analysis of Medicare records covering nearly 11 million patients.

"What we found is that overall between two and four out of every 10,000 patients who undergo a CT scan are at risk for developing secondary cancers as a result of that radiation exposure," said Aabed Meer, an M.D. candidate in the department of radiology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

"And that risk, I would say, is lower than we expected it to be," said Meer.

As a result, patients who need a CT scan should not be fearful of the consequences, Meer stated.

"If you have a stroke and need a CT scan of the head, the benefits of that scan at that moment outweigh the very minor possibility of developing a cancer as a result of the scan itself," he explained. "CT scans do amazing things in terms of diagnosis. Yes, there is some radiation risk. But that small risk should always be put in context."

The authors set out to quantify that risk by sifting through the medical records of elderly patients covered by Medicare between 1998 and 2005.

The researchers separated the data into two periods: 1998 to 2001 and 2002 to 2005. In the earlier period, 42 percent of the patients had undergone CT scans. For the period 2002 to 2005, that figure rose to 49 percent, which was not surprising given the increasing use of scans in U.S. medical care.

Within each group, the research team reviewed the number and type of CT scans administered to see how many patients received low-dose radiation (50 to 100 millisieverts) and how many got high-dose radiation (more than
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