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What is the risk of leukaemia in children and young adults following radiation exposure from computed tomography?

  • Researcher: Dr Michael Hauptmann
  • Institution: The Netherlands Cancer Institute
  • Award Amount: £236,108 for 3 years from June 2012
  • Cancer Type: Leukaemia
What is the risk of leukaemia in children and young adults following radiation exposure from computed tomography?

Computed tomography (CT scan) is a type of medical scan that takes a series of x-rays from different angles of your body. These appear as "slices" of a part of your body, and these slices can be put together to give a very detailed image of the inside of your body. The CT scan delivers much higher doses of radiation than most other imaging techniques which are used to detect or diagnose ailments. This is why doctors only use them when there are no alternatives, and the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. There has been a large increase in the use of CT in the last 10-15 years. As a result, radiation protection, especially among children needs to be monitored and reviewed. Children are particularly sensitive to radiation-induced cancer, and have a long life ahead of them in which to express possible side effects, such as an increased risk of leukemia. 57 million CT scans were carried out in the US in 2007. It is estimated that these scans can be linked to 29,000 cancers occurring in those patients' lifetime, of which more than 4,000 are from CT scanning during childhood. Dr Hauptmann will use his Worldwide Cancer Research grant to look at the records of Dutch childhood CT scans and compare them to the Netherlands Cancer Registry to study whether there is a potential link. These results will contribute to a European study investigating risk for rarer forms of cancer. Dr Hauptmann's study will thereby provide safety information for this invaluable method, as well as contributing to our knowledge of childhood and young adult leukaemia and risks associated with low-dose radiation.

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