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  Radiation exposure from computed tomography (CT) scans in childhood could triple the risk of leukaemia and brain cancer, a UK observational study has found. Radiation exposure from two to three CT scans of the head in childhood can triple the risk of later developing brain cancer, while around five to 10 scans could triple the risk of developing leukaemia. However, the absolute risks are small: in the 10 years after the first scan for patients younger than 10 years, one excess case of leukaemia and one excess case of brain tumour per 10 000 head CT scans is estimated to occur.

Paper: Radiation exposure from CT scans in childhood and subsequent risk of leukaemia and brain tumours: a retrospective cohort study, Pearce et al., The Lancet, 7 June 2012

  Below are comments from Australian experts provided by the Australian Science Media Centre. The collaboration between the Australian Science Media and the Science Media Centre of Japan is supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Japan Foundation which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


Professor Bruce Armstrong

Professor of Public Health in the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney and a Senior Advisor for the Sax Institute
  Material increases in risk of brain tumour and leukaemia in younger people exposed to higher accumulated levels of ionising radiation from CT imaging are not unexpected and entirely consistent with what has been known for a long time about the cancer causing effects of ionising (nuclear) radiation.
  This work emphasises the very great importance of only using this form of imaging when it has a strong medical justification and in doing so in ways that minimise the amount to which the patient who is being imaged is exposed to the radiation needed to produce the required images.


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