Monday, January 22, 2001

CT scans on kids increase cancer danger

USA Today and The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Each year, roughly 1.6 million children in the United States get CT scans and about 1,500 of them will die later in life of radiation-induced cancer, says research out today.

        What's more, CT scans given to kids are typically calibrated for adults, so children absorb two to six times the radiation needed to produce clear images, a second study from researchers at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital Medical Center shows.

        These doses are “way bigger than the sorts of doses that people at Three Mile Island were getting,” says David Brenner of Columbia University.

        Both studies appear in the American Journal of Roentgenology. The first, by Mr. Brenner and colleagues, is the first study to estimate the risks of “radiation-in duced fatal cancer” from pediatric CT scans.

        “There's a huge number of people who don't just receive one scan,” says Fred Mettler of the University of New Mexico. “The breast dose from a CT scan of the chest is somewhere between 10 and 20 mammograms. You'd want to think long and hard about giving your young daughter 10 to 20 mammograms unless she really needs it.”

        Researchers led by Dr. Lane Donnelly at Children's Hospital found that children sometimes get doses five times higher than necessary.

        But the last thing Dr. Donnelly would want people to do is avoid a CT scan when needed. The risk of not diagnosing an immediate medical problem would be worse than the potential risk from the radiation, he said.

Kids' radiation dose can be lowered

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