Got Young Kids? Reduce Imaging-related Cancers With This Tip

Radiology technologists should use lower settings for children than adults, but that doesn’t necessarily happen.

Diana L. Miglioretti, PhD

Efforts to reduce the highest radiation doses administered to children who have CT scans (as well as the elimination of unnecessary scans) may drop the incidence of radiation-induced cancers by nearly two-thirds. That is the conclusion of the authors of a retrospective, observational study.

Details: Younger patients and girls were at increased likelihood for a higher projected lifetime attributable risk for solid cancer. Among girls, depending on the age, a solid cancer induced by radiation is projected to result from 300 to 390 scans in the abdomen/pelvis, 330 to 480 chest scans, and 270 to 800 spine scans. Among children younger than 5 years-old, the risk of leukemia was highest from head scans (1.9 cases per 10,000 scans).

The roughly 4 million pediatric CT scans of the head, abdomen/pelvis, chest or spine performed annually in the USA are projected to cause 4.870 future cancers. Reducing doses in the highest quartile of doses may prevent 43% of those cancer. In addition, experts feel that about 1/3 of CT scans are unneeded.

My take: Children tend to absorb more radiation from imaging than adults, as their bodies are smaller. Radiology technologists should use lower energy settings for children (than for adults). Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Ask: 1) Does my child really need a CT scan (sometimes, the answer is an emphatic and appropriate “Yes!” 2) Is there an alternative to CT scan (such as an MRI)? 3) If you are doing a CT scan, what are you doing to lower the risk of a future cancer (i.e are you lowering the dose of radiation in the CT scan)? I’m Dr. Michael Hunter and I think you for joining today.

Reference: Miglioretti DL. JAMA Pediatr 2013;doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.311.