CT Scans: Can They Cause Cancer?

ct scan

Doctors have always wondered if CT scans—which use high doses of radiation to identify tumors, heart disease, and internal injuries—put patients at risk for cancer. Now, new research is suggesting that these scans might be more dangerous than previously thought.


The Wall Street Journal Health Blog highlights new research suggesting that CT scans "expose patients to more radiation"—in some cases, up to 66 percent more—than is commonly believed."

Some estimates as to how this radiation can affect patients: The roughly 72 million CT scans performed in the U.S. in 2007 will ultimately cause some 29,000 cases of cancer. And, one in 270 women who get coronary CT angiography (a scan of the heart) at age 40 will develop cancer as a result of the scan.

As you can see, the risk is not huge. And some experts think these statistics are overstated. Nonetheless, cancer risks from CT scans are something we should be aware of and ready to discuss with our doctors.

So should we refuse a CT scan if our doctor prescribes it? No. But medical professionals suggest take the following precautions before getting the scan:

  1. Discuss with your doctor as to whether a scan is absolutely necessary.
  2. Choose an accredited facility that could be relied upon to control dose and make it as low as possible.

Have you ever gotten a CT scan? Is risk of cancer from the scan something you discussed with your doctor?

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