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CT scans in childhood could triple the risk of cancer: British study


10:36, June 12, 2012

LONDON, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Children and young adults who were scanned by computer tomography (CT) may have an increased risk of leukemia and brain tumors in adulthood, according to British scientists who published the result in the journal Lancet on Thursday.

Scientists at University of Newcastle analyzed medical records of almost 180,000 British young patients, who underwent CT scans between 1985 and 2002, when they were under age 22.

When assessing the subsequent cancer risk for an average 10 years after the first CT scan, the researchers found a clear relationship between the increase in cancer risk and increasing cumulative dose of radiation in the scan. Risk of leukemia and brain tumors could be tripled as the result of two or three typical CT scans.

A vital and commonly used diagnostic technique, CT scan has some side effect as it could deliver a dose of ionizing radiation to the body part being scanned and to nearby issues, which could cause damage and increase a person's risk of cancer.

"This is the first direct evidence of a link between exposure to radiation from CT and cancer risk in children," said lead author Dr. Mark Pearce at Newcastle University.

However, the researchers emphasized that when a child suffer a major head injury or develops a life-threatening illness, the benefits of clinically appropriate CT scans should outweigh future cancer risks.

"CT scans are accurate and fast so they should be used when their immediate benefits outweigh the long-term risks," Pearce said.


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