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Multinational Study Confirms Association Between CT Scans in Young People and Increased Risk of Cancer


A multinational study of almost one million individuals confirms a strong and clear association between exposure to radiation from CT scans in young people and an increased risk of blood cancers.


In recent years, many doctors have become concerned regarding the overuse of certain diagnostic techniques, in particular those exposing patients to radiation. While the infrequent use of X-ray or CT (computed tomography) scans will not have adverse effects, multiple exposures over a short period of time can cause serious damage to cells, resulting in an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

The controversy over CT scans as an increasing source of radiation exposure caught public attention in 2007. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. David Brenner, the lead author, highlighted concerns relating to a significant increase in the use of CT scans among children and adults. Brenner emphasized that only a small percentage of scans are absolutely necessary and that around one-third could either be replaced by other approaches or not done at all. A separate study published in 2009 estimated that, in the years ahead, increased radiation exposure could lead to 29,000 new cases of cancer among Americans.

Despite the increasing popularity of CT scans, there are few regulations concerning their use. Worryingly, therefore, a study published in 2009 by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco found an up to 13-fold variation in the radiation doses for the same or similar tests conducted using different machines or settings. The same year, a major hospital in the United States came under investigation for over-exposing more than 200 patients due to improper settings when conducting brain scans. Similar problems have been revealed at other medical centers.

To learn how to use diagnostic technologies wisely for the benefit of your health, see this article on our website.