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Monday 26th August 2019

Brain tumours linked to dental x-rays

10th April 2012

People who receive frequent dental x-rays seem to be at increased risk of developing a common form of brain tumour, a new study has shown.


One of the biggest risk factors for non-malignant meningioma is ionising radiation, which includes x-rays. The commonly diagnosed tumour, while non-cancerous, can grow to a large size and precipitate headaches, and problems with vision, hearing and memory. Some of them have been known to prompt seizures.

Researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital say that many Americans are receiving more than the recommended dosage of dental x-rays, which currently stands at once every 2-3 years.

Lead researcher and neurosurgeon Elizabeth Claus said that many dental patients were actually receiving annual x-rays, and may thus be being exposed to unnecessary risk.

However, she said the findings should not prevent anyone from visiting the dentist.

Most meningiomas, which account for around 30% of all brain and nervous system tumour diagnoses, are non-malignant, but they are the most frequently diagnosed brain tumours among American adults.

Previous studies on a smaller scale have suggested a link with dental Xxrays but not conclusively, and the Yale study is the largest to look at the issue.

It examined the self-reported dental histories of adults with meningioma who shared similar characteristics with a control group with no meningioma.

It concluded that people who had "bitewing" dental x-rays at least once a year had risk of meningioma that was 40-90% higher than those who had them only every two or three years.

It found that the patients with meningioma were twice as likely to have had a dental x-ray at some point in their lives.

Writing in the American Cancer Association journal Cancer, Claus and her team emphasised that the study, which included around 1,400 meningioma patients aged 20-79 from 2006-2011, did not prove that the x-rays caused meningioma, however.

According to the American Dental Association, healthy adults should receive routine mouth x-rays every two to three years, while children may receive them every 1-2 years because of their developing teeth and jaws.

Michael Schulder, who is vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute, said dentists and their patients should strongly consider getting x-rays less often than once a year, unless symptoms demanded an x-ray image.

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