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CT scans could triple brain cancer risk

7th June 2012

Experts have issued a fresh warning over the risk of multiple CT scans in childhood.

mriscan

A study led by a team from Newcastle University has suggested that multiple scans can triple the risk of developing brain cancer or leukaemia.

However, they say that overall the benefits of scans usually outweigh the risks.

The Newcastle team, which published its findings in The Lancet, studied the NHS medical records of almost 180,000 young patients aged under 21 who had CT scans at British hospitals between 1985 and 2002.

It is the first study of its kind with the authors saying the findings underline the importance of using scans only when necessary and that ways of cutting radiation further should be explored.

As radiation-related cancer takes time to develop, the data on cancer cases and mortality was examined up until 2009 and showed an estimated increased risk of one extra case of leukaemia and one extra brain tumour among 10,000 CT head scans of children aged under 10.

The study was led by epidemiologist Dr Mark Pearce who said: “We found significant increases in the risk of leukaemia and brain tumours, following CT in childhood and young adulthood. The immediate benefits of CT outweigh the risks in many settings.

“Doses have come down dramatically over time - but we need to do more to reduce them. This should be a priority for the clinical community and manufacturers.”

The Department of Health spokesman said the UK uses lower levels of radiation in CT scans than other countries.

 

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