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Children given CT scan have a higher risk of blood cancers

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Young people who have a CT (computed tomography) scan have a much greater risk of developing blood cancers later.

One scan triples the risk of myeloid and lymphoid cancers, but that was at the higher ionising radiation dose of 100 mGy (milligray) which used to be routinely given.  Today, typical CT scans emit around 8 mGy, but even this lower level raises the risk by 16 percent, which means that for every 10,000 children scanned, two will develop one of the cancers within 12 years.

CT scans still emit more radiation than any other scanning technology, even at lower doses, say researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, and should be used sparingly.

They headed up an international research team that analysed data of around a million scans of young people who were younger than 22 by the time they had been given at least one CT scan; from that, the researchers estimated the radiation dose to the bone marrow where blood cells are produced.  

The researchers linked the data to cancer registries to discover those who developed blood cancer within 12 years or so.

Around a million children across Europe have a CT scan every year, and doctors need to be aware of the dangers and consider safer alternatives, the researchers say.

References
Nature Medicine, 2023; doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02620-0
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