Cutting CT Dose Could Reduce Childhood Cancers

Reducing the amount of radiation used in computed tomography (CT) scans in children could potentially decrease the rate of childhood cancers. These results were recently published in the journal Jama Pediatrics.

There has been concern in the medical community regarding the effects of cumulative radiation doses through medical imaging and its effects on subsequent health of an individual.

Since childhood cancer remains the single greatest cause of health-related mortality in the United States, researchers continue to evaluate ways in which to reduce its rate in this age group.

Researchers from 7 United States health care systems recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate the potential effects or radiation from CT scans on children. The study included children younger than 15 years treated between 2001 and 2011 who underwent CT scans as children. Results were compared to the general population

Overall, among the patients who underwent CT scanning, girls and younger patients were more likely to develop a solid cancer during their lifetime than boys and older patients.
The risk of leukemia was highest among children who underwent head scans at younger than 5 years of age (nearly 2 cases for every 10,000 scans).
Among girls, one cancer is estimated to develop for every 300-390 abdominal/pelvis scans, 330-480 chest scans, and 270-800 spine scans, depending upon age.
Higher doses of radiation used for scans was associated with increased estimates of cancer rates.
The researchers concluded that “Nationally, 4 million pediatric CT scans of the head, abdomen/pelvis, chest, or spine performed each year are projected to cause 4870 future cancers. Reducing the highest 25% of doses to the median might prevent 43% of these cancers.”

Reference: Miglioretti D, Johnson E, Williams A, et al. The Use of Computed Tomography in Pediatrics and the Associated Radiation Exposure and Estimated Cancer Risk. JAMA Pediatrics. Early on-line publication June 10, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.311.