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Certain Tests in ERs Raise Cancer Risk for Some
Date:5/29/2008

Study found too many X-rays, CT scans and nuclear medicine tests led to radiation buildup

THURSDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term buildup of radiation resulting from repeated emergency room X-rays and scans may be placing some patients at an increased risk for developing cancer, new research suggests.

At issue are routine testing procedures -- currently in widespread use in hospitals across the United States -- that emit a certain degree of ionizing radiation. Such procedures include both standard X-rays and more sophisticated CT scans, as well as nuclear medicine screenings where tiny amounts of radioactive material are swallowed and followed throughout the body.

"We're not by any means trying to say that at any given instance diagnostic testing is not appropriate," said study author Dr. Timothy Bullard, chief medical officer and a practicing emergency room physician at Florida's Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC). "The diagnostic testing that we're doing now is really fabulous and tremendous in terms of its capabilities. But we have to be very cognizant that it's not without potential risks. And I think that neither physicians nor patients have been focused on this concern."

Bullard presented his work Thursday at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Scans and X-rays rely on ionizing radiation to render diagnostic imaging on film or a computer. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound tests do not use any radiation and are not the subject of the current study.

The problem, suggested Bullard, is that while no single procedure will expose a patient to undue amounts of radiation, ER physicians have not had any way to gauge a patient's cumulative exposure.

To explore the potential dimensions of the problem, the researchers teamed up with Washington Hospital, in Washington, D.C., to conduct the first study looking into cumulative
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