JUL 25, 2018 7:45 AM PDT

Can CT Scans Increase the Risk of Brain Cancer?

Medical imaging has gone from fuzzy X-rays that didn't show much, to real-time functional MRI scans in just a few decades. Being able to see inside the body, sometimes down to the molecular level, can save lives, reveal new treatment options, and be a teaching tool for medical students.

There is some risk with specific imaging methods. Radiation from X-rays and CT scans can be problematic, but for the most part, these imaging abilities provide useful information with a very low risk of radiation problems. A new study, however, could change the way doctors and patients feel about CT scans. Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the research suggests that CT scans can raise a patient's risk for developing brain tumors.

Computed tomography (CT) scans are often the first line of diagnosticians who need to understand a problem a patient has. They are used for almost every part of the body, and they do improve clinical outcomes, but there could be a cost to that. They use more radiation than other types of imaging, and the risk is more pronounced in children who are more susceptible to radiation. In children and young adults, the most common cancers that are related to radiation exposure are leukemia and brain cancer. The study's goal was to investigate the use of CT scans in children and compare it to the incidence of brain tumors and leukemia.

The study included 168,394 Dutch children who had undergone one or more CT scans between 1979 and 2012. They compared this data to vital stat records and cancer incidence. What they found was that the rate of brain cancers (both malignant and non-malignant) were 1.5 times higher and those numbers were related to dosage amounts. The higher the dose of radiation in a scan, the higher the rate of brain tumors. There was no similar correlation between CT scans and leukemia cases, which is likely because not much radiation reaches the bone marrow when CT scans are performed, and that is where leukemia originates.

The team of scientists was quick to point out that the association between CT scans and cancer could be due to confounding factors since the cohort of study subjects was already at a higher risk for disease. CT scans are not done without some indication of a problem, such as balance issues, headaches or vision disturbances. The information on why the children received scans was not entirely clear, so it's possible that some of them were already being evaluated for possible brain tumors or other brain abnormalities.

Dr. Michael Hauptmann, in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, is the lead author of the work. He explained, "Epidemiological studies of cancer risks from low doses of medical radiation are challenging. Nevertheless, our careful evaluation of the data and evidence from other studies indicate that CT-related radiation exposure increases brain tumor risk. Careful justification of pediatric CT scans and dose optimization, as done in many hospitals, are essential to minimize risks." Check out the video to learn more about the research and possible radiation risks in CT scans.

 

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 21, 2020
Immunology
CNS's immune cells - Microglia are involved in the exacerbation of MS
OCT 21, 2020
CNS's immune cells - Microglia are involved in the exacerbation of MS
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most progressive autoimmune diseases that affect the central nervous system where ...
NOV 01, 2020
Neuroscience
High Fat Diet Could Prevent Anorexia Deaths
NOV 01, 2020
High Fat Diet Could Prevent Anorexia Deaths
Researchers from Yale University have homed in on a specific kind of neuron that appears to play a sizable role in fatal ...
DEC 24, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Feeling Unmotivated? It Could Be Dementia.
DEC 24, 2020
Feeling Unmotivated? It Could Be Dementia.
Apathy, characterized by a pronounced lack of enthusiasm, motivation, or interest, is a predictor of the future onset of ...
JAN 09, 2021
Neuroscience
Rest No Substitute for Sleep When Learning
JAN 09, 2021
Rest No Substitute for Sleep When Learning
Researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany have found that resting does not substitute the benefits of deep ...
JAN 28, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Gene Variants Affecting an Ion Channel Alter Parkinson's Disease Risk
JAN 28, 2021
Gene Variants Affecting an Ion Channel Alter Parkinson's Disease Risk
These variants can raise, or lower the risk of the disease, and now researchers have learned how they work.
FEB 16, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Change in One Gene Might've Made Our Brains Uniquely Human
FEB 16, 2021
A Change in One Gene Might've Made Our Brains Uniquely Human
Stem cells can be used to create simplified versions of human organs called organoids, enabling researchers to study how ...
Loading Comments...