A new multinational study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has revealed a concerning link between young individuals exposed to radiation from CT scans and an increased risk of developing blood cancers. The study, known as EPI-CT, analyzed data from nearly one million individuals across nine European countries, highlighting the need for strict radiological protection measures, especially in pediatric populations.
CT scans have revolutionized patient management and have become a vital tool in diagnosis, treatment planning, and disease follow-up. However, the growing use of CT scans has raised concerns about the potential cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation, particularly in younger patients. Previous studies suggested a higher cancer risk in children who have undergone CT scans, but methodological limitations prevented conclusive findings.
To address these limitations head-on, researchers from nine countries collaborated on the EPI-CT study. By extracting data from the radiology records of 276 hospitals and linking them to population-based registries, the study focused on nearly one million individuals who had undergone CT scans before the age of 22. The researchers found a dose-dependent association between CT scans and the risk of developing blood cancers, both myeloid and lymphoid malignancies.
The study’s results revealed a clear correlation between radiation doses from CT scans and the increased risk of blood cancers. A dose of 100 mGy was found to triple the risk of developing a blood cancer. Even with the average dose of 8 mGy in a typical scan today, there is a 16% increased risk of developing these malignancies. Approximately 1-2 cases of cancer can be expected in every 10,000 children who undergo a CT scan in the 12 years following the examination.
With over one million European children undergoing CT scans annually, the findings of the study have significant public health implications. Despite recent reductions in radiation doses from CT scans, it is crucial to raise awareness among the medical community and maintain strict radiation protection measures, especially for young patients.
The study’s design aimed to address the methodological criticisms and limitations of previous studies. The multinational approach significantly increased statistical power, and the study evaluated the risk of hematological malignancies using the revised World Health Organization (WHO) classification. However, there are limitations to consider, such as confounding factors, socio-economic influences, and uncertainties in individual dose estimates. Future efforts should focus on validating dose estimates and collecting dose quantities and technical parameters in real-time clinics to refine risk estimates in future studies.
In conclusion, the EPI-CT study provides compelling evidence of the increased cancer risk associated with CT scans in young individuals. It emphasizes the need to enhance radiation protection measures and justify the use of CT procedures, especially in pediatric populations. The medical community must prioritize patient safety, particularly for the most vulnerable among them – children. Adhering to the ALARA principle and minimizing unnecessary exposure is crucial. The study’s findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.