A new study indicates that children who receive computer tomography scans, better known as CT scans, have almost three times the risk of developing leukemia and brain cancer later in life. The study, in Lancet, assures parents that the risk of getting brain cancer or leukemia is still very low, even when the risk is tripled. Nevertheless, the researchers warned that doctors should only give CT scans to children when the procedure is absolutely necessary.
CT scans, introduced in the 1970s, were performed 72 million times in the United States in 2007.
Researchers looked at 180,000 patients who had received CT scans when they were children. While various types of radiation exposure have long been linked to cancer risk, such as radiation from a nuclear disaster or radiation therapy, this is the first study to find direct evidence of a link between radiation exposure from the CT scans and cancer.