CT scans linked to higher risk of blood cancers in young people: Study

Computed tomography (CT) scans are associated with an increased risk of blood cancers in children and young adults, according to a study published in the Nature Medicine journal.

The European Pediatric CT (EPI-CT) study, involving nearly a million patients, reveals that the radiation from these scans, which use X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body, might be putting youngsters at risk.

A team led by researchers at Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain found that there is a clear link between the radiation doses from CT scans and a higher risk of blood cancers, both lymphoid and myeloid.

The risk starts at doses as low as 1015 units. That’s a wake-up call for anyone who thought those CT scans were harmless, the researchers said.

Contrary to previous beliefs, the EPI-CT study found an increased risk of Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL), especially in the younger age groups. This demands more attention and deeper dives into the data on CT scans, the researchers said.

“The risk associated with CT scans isn’t negligible, and it’s not just for rare cases we’re talking about a 16 per cent increased risk for these blood cancers per scan. That’s not a number to be brushed off lightly,” the authors of the study said.

“In terms of absolute risk, among 10,000 children who receive such an examination today, we expect about 1.4 cases due to CT radiation during the 12 years after the examination,” they said.

The study acknowledged the benefits of CT imaging in patient management, for diagnostic efficacy, treatment planning and follow-up, are undisputed.

The research doesn’t just point fingers, it urges action, the researchers said.

From rethinking the necessity of CT scans to ensuring that radiation exposure is kept as low as possible, the implications are clear, they said.

“The EPI-CT study, encompassing over one million European children, reveals a concerning association between cumulative CT scan radiation exposure and childhood hematological malignancies,” said Dr. Ravinder Singh, Consultant Radiology, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, New Delhi.

“These findings emphasise the importance of ongoing scrutiny and optimisation of pediatric CT examinations to mitigate the potential risk of developing blood cancers in the subsequent 12 years,” Singh, who was not involved in the study, told PTI