CT Scans and Cancer Risk in Children


A new clinical study suggests that performing CT scans during childhood may significantly increase the risk of leukemia and brain cancer.




As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, exposure to medical x-rays, and particularly exposure to radiation from CT scans, is an under-appreciated cancer risk factor.  Based upon even conservative estimates, exposure to medical radiation is thought to cause at least 1 to 2 percent of all new cancer cases, and most of this medical x-ray exposure comes from CT scans.  Additionally, as I also discuss in my book, there is enormous variation in the amount of radiation exposure associated with CT scans between different hospitals, and even within individual hospitals.  Now, a newly published clinical study suggests that the risk of cancer in children due to medical x-rays may be of particular concern.  This new paper appears in the forthcoming issue of the journal The Lancet.

In this study from the United Kingdom, nearly 180,000 patients who underwent CT scans as children, between 1985 and 2002, were followed.  The incidence of cancer in this very large group of patients was then monitored.

In this study, CT scans that delivered a cumulative radiation dose of at least 30 milligray were associated with three times the subsequent risk of leukemia as was observed in patients who received radiation doses less than 5 milligray.  The incidence of brain cancer was also three times higher among patients who received a cumulative radiation dose of 50 milligray or more from CT scans, when compared to patients who received less than 5 milligray.  Now, it is important to mention that these increases in cancer risk were increases in relative risk.  Since both leukemia and brain cancer are rare diseases, the absolute increase in cancer risk was actually quite small (one excess case of leukemia and one excess case of brain cancer per 10,000 CT scans of the head).  However, the findings of this important study point out the need to reduce radiation doses associated with CT scans to as low a level as is possible, especially for CT scans performed on children.  Moreover, alternative imaging studies to CT scans, such as ultrasound and MRI scans, should be used whenever possible to further reduce the exposure of both pediatric patients and adult patients to medical x-rays.

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


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