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Children Who Have CT Scans May Face Higher Cancer Risk
Date:5/22/2013

a patient is at first exposure to a CT scan, the lower their risk, the researchers said. But even among the oldest participants -- between 15 and 19 -- the study revealed that risk for all cancers combined was still higher.

For cancers involving tumors other than brain cancer, the researchers found the proportional increase in risk was 23 percent among females and 14 percent among males.

The researchers, led by John Mathews, a professor at the University of Melbourne's School of Population and Global Health, said that in some cases brain cancer may have resulted in a CT scan and not the other way around. They added that participants may have developed cancer beyond the final follow-up period in 2007. As a result, they concluded that the "eventual lifetime risk from CT scans cannot yet be determined."

Although the study found an association between having a CT scan in childhood and a higher risk of developing cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

It's important to realize the incidence of cancer among children is extremely small, said Dr. Aaron Sodickson, who wrote an accompanying journal editorial. Sodickson is the section chief of emergency radiology and medical director of computed tomography at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"A 24 percent increase makes this risk just slightly less small," Sodickson wrote. He added that there are many ways to adjust radiation doses and that more accurate assessments of patients' risk can help doctors make more informed decisions about CT scans and other imaging tests.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about CT scans and the risks involved.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: BMJ news release, May 21, 2013


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