The number of computer tomography scans — more commonly known as “CT scans” — has grown in the last year (from 2013 a 2014) up to five million exams, highlighted by a report from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE). The increasing number of CT scans used in diagnostics is beginning to raise some questions about patients’ possible overexposure to radiation throughout their lifetimes.
According to the information released on Netdoctor’s website, the results also show an increase in the number of CTs used on children, increasing to a total of 100,000 exams in pediatric cases alone.
Even though the radiation amount from x-ray tests usually doesn’t represent a major health risk, excessive exposure may lead to health problems — cancer included — which is a possible reason for medical concern with the increase in the number of CTs and detailed x-rays.
This concern is heightened when it comes to children because of two factors: first, as noted in the Netdoctor article, because children still have many more years to live, increased exposure to radiation early in their lives makes them more likely to be exposed to radiation in the future. The second factor that raises health concerns is a study conducted in 2012 that showed that children exposed to multiple (ten or more) CT scans in their childhood are more likely to develop leukemia and brain cancer.
In addition, women with some specific genes that make them more genetically predisposed to cancer — especially the BRAC1 gene — may also be more vulnerable when exposed to radiation.
Even though COMARE’s results suggest an increase in CT scans, the UK still has one of the best results worldwide concerning radiation exposure, with 90% of radiation exposure levels coming from needed medical resources.
COMARE is a committee of experts of the department of Health that advises departments and agencies on the health effects and consequences of radiation.