Increased CT scan use in children may boost cancer risk, JAMA study says

Kids at risk of radiation induced cancer

TAMPA - Dr. Matthew Berlet is the Medical Director of Radiology at St. Joseph's Hospital and he says CT scans are one of the best tools to diagnose patients.  But, they do use a low dose of radiation.

A recent article in JAMA Pediatrics calls attention to the potential increased risk in radiation-induced cancer in kids due to the increased use of these scans.   

A review of CT scans performed at seven hospital systems found that scans of the head, abdomen, and pelvis, chest or spine doubled in children under 5 years old and tripled in children between 5 and 14 from 1996 to 2005.  Dr. Berlet says, "Kids are ten times more sensitive to radiation than adults, and that's why this has become an issue."

The study's authors estimate that 5,000 future cancers could by caused by the roughly 5 million pediatric CT scans that are performed each year.  Berlet says parents shouldn't be scared by that number – it's actually low. "So, you're talking about .001 percent of developing cancer."

And he says his doctors always weigh the risk versus benefit before ordering a test that includes radiation. Still - as a result of studies like this one - hospital systems like bay care are already making changes, aiming to reduce unnecessary scans for kids as well as decreased radiation exposure.

Dr. Berlet says parents can ask if there are alternative tests such as x-rays or ultrasound but he adds typically ER physicians are well trained and understand what the risks are with radiation and will avoid that kind of imaging unless it is necessary.

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