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Study Mixed On Cancer Risk Of Scans For Children

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Here are three headlines from medical websites:

Lifetime cancer risks from X-rays for children ‘relatively low’

Imaging Hikes Ca Risk in Kids With Heart Disease

Kids with complex heart disease at higher risk of imaging-induced cancer

Each headline (from, respectively, Medical News Today, MedPage Today, and Health Imaging) refers to the same study, conducted by researchers at Duke UniversityCirculation published an article about it online on Monday. The journal’s headline avoided characterizing the study results at all: “Cumulative Radiation Exposure and Cancer Risk Estimation in Children with Heart Disease.”

Obviously, the study yielded mixed results. For the average child under 6 who underwent surgery for heart disease, the study found that the cumulative dose of ionizing radiation from imaging procedures was lower than the average annual U.S. background radiation exposure.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that children who had complex conditions that led to repeated CT scans or cardiac catheterizations had a significantly higher lifetime risk of radiation-induced cancer. The study also indicated that girls faced almost twice the “lifetime attributable risk” as boys (because they are more likely to get cancer of the breast and thyroid), and that very young children had a higher risk than older children.

Kevin D. Hill, MD, senior author of the article, said parents need to be aware of their child’s cumulative radiation dose and should take an active role in treatment:

There are definitely times when radiation is necessary. But it’s important for parents to ask and compare in case you can avert potentially high-exposure procedures. Often there are alternative or modified procedures with less radiation, or imaging may not actually be necessary.

Dr. Hill is a cardiologist and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke. He was quoted by Medical News Today.

Dr. Hill said medical personnel also bear responsibility for minimizing procedures that involve ionizing radiation. “Simple awareness is one of the greatest means to reducing exposure,” he said. “Health care providers should consider tweaking protocols to limit radiation doses and balance risks and benefits of every imaging study they do.”

Related CME seminar (up to 11 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): ALARA – CT (As Low As Reasonably Achievable)

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