Wednesday Bits and Bytes: Cancer Risk from Medical Radiation Overestimated?

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imageAccording to a study presented today at RSNA, the risk of developing radiation-induced cancer from CT might be lower than we think. In a retrospective study of Medicare claims from 1998 to 2005 that included more than 10 million records, cancer incidences related to ionizing radiation from CT were estimated to be 0.02% for one group of patients and 0.04% for the other. “Our findings indicate a significantly lower risk of developing cancer from CT than previous estimates of 1.5% to 2% of the population,” said study coauthor Scott Atlas, MD, chief of neuroradiology at Stanford. “Regardless, the increasing reliance on CT scans underscores the importance of monitoring CT utilization and its consequences.”

In a study of former pro athletes, researchers out of Boston found that MR spectroscopy may help with the diagnoses of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is caused by repetitive head trauma of the sort many pro athletes experience over the course of their careers, and until now could only be definitively diagnosed at biopsy. By using MRS, however, researchers were able to identify the neurochemicals that may play a role in the disorder, setting the stage for better diagnosis. “Being able to diagnose CTE could help athletes of all ages and levels, as well as war veterans who suffer mild brain injuries, many of which go undetected,” noted principal investigator Alexander P. Lin, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s.

Guess what else? There’s even more evidence to indicate that annual breast cancer screening should begin at 40, not 50, which is the age the USPSTF decided on earlier this year. According to a study out of the London Breast Institute, starting screening with mammography at the age of 40 reduces a woman’s risk of eventually undergoing a mastectomy by more than half. “Regular screening is already proven to lower the chance of women dying from breast cancer,” said lead author Nicholas M. Perry, MBBS. “The results of our study support the importance of regular screening in the under-50 age group and confirm that annual mammography improves the chances of breast conservation should breast cancer develop.”