Medical Imaging May Cause Tens of Thousands of Cancers

By Allison Bond | August 27, 2009 3:24 pm

CT scannerMedical imaging tests such as CT scans are valuable diagnostic tools, but their increasing use in doctors’ offices and hospitals is providing a sizable dose of radiation for about 4 million Americans under the age of 65. About 400,000 of those Americans receive very high doses, more than the maximum annual exposure allowed for nuclear power plant employees or anyone else who works with radioactive material [The New York Times], according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers based their estimates on a study of almost 1 million people between the ages of 18 and 64 who they followed for almost three years, and found that nearly 70 percent of test subjects were subjected to at least one procedure that would have exposed them to radiation. Although the study didn’t examine whether this radiation could cause an increase in cancer rates, some experts believe it would probably result in tens of thousands of additional cancers…. Each individual patient is at relatively minor additional risk from the tests, [researcher and cardiologist Rita] Redberg said, but because they are given to so many people, the cumulative risk is significant [The New York Times].

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Image: iStockPhoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • NewEnglandBob

    I find this speculative and alarmist. A proper study should be undertaken.

  • http://www.xrayrisk.com Mike Hanley

    The NEJM article refers to radiation doses that are “moderate, high, and very high”. Assigning that description to an arbitrary number (50 mSv for example) does not aid this important discussion, nor does it address the real issue. Appropriate studies provide great benefit and should continue without fear of the assumed increased cancer risk. Likewise, studies that provide no clinical information should not be performed even if they are “low dose”. Medical decisions always involve weighing the risks and benefits of a procedure or medication. You can visit the radiation dose calculator at http://www.xrayrisk.com to calculate cancer risk based on CT scans, x-rays, nuclear medicine and interventional procedures performed.

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