This is scary – a new study suggests that commonly used medical CT scans may increase the risk of brain tumours, particularly in children…

It’s understandable why the use of computed tomography (CT) scans has increased dramatically over the last two decades – they greatly improve diagnostic capabilities (which improve clinical outcomes).

However, CT scans deliver higher radiation doses than other tests. This means that radiation protection during CT scans is a concern.

Children have a higher risk

Particularly concerning are CT scans for children, because they may receive higher radiation doses, are more susceptible to radiation-related malignancies than adults and have more time to show effects from the potential risk.

The most common malignancies caused by radioactivity among children and young adults are leukaemia and brain tumours.

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Researchers evaluated leukaemia and brain tumour risks following exposure to radiation from CT scans in childhood in 168 394 Dutch children who received one or more CT scans between 1979 and 2012.

Researchers obtained cancer incidence and vital status by record linkage. They surveyed all Dutch hospital-based radiology departments to ascertain eligibility and participation.

Overall cancer incidence was 1,5 times higher than expected.

Related: Brain cancer is now leading killer in childhood cancers

For all brain tumours combined, and for malignant and non-malignant brain tumours separately, dose-response relationships were observed with radiation dose to the brain. Relative risks increased to between two and four for the highest dose category. The researchers observed no association for leukaemia. Radiation doses to the bone marrow, where leukaemia originates, were low.

“Epidemiological studies of cancer risks from low doses of medical radiation are challenging, says the study’s principal investigator, Michael Hauptmann, “nevertheless, our careful evaluation of the data and evidence from other studies indicate that CT-related radiation exposure increases brain tumour risk. Careful justification of paediatric CT scans and dose optimisation, as done in many hospitals, are essential to minimise risks.”

Source: Oxford University Press USA via

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.