A recent study indicates that after receiving 2 or 3 CT scans, children under 15 had triple the risk of brain cancer, as compared to the general population. After receiving 5 to 10 scans, children had triple the risk of leukemia. The study observed 180,000 children who had scans from 1985 to 2002. Of this group, 74 children ultimately developed leukemia and 135 developed brain cancer.
Although CT scans are necessary to diagnose life-threatening conditions such as head and spine injuries, pneumonia complications and chest infections, they do expose patients to a higher dose of radiation than other X-rays, which explains the increased danger of cancer. Thus, actions have been taken within the industry to avoid CT scans on children in cases of kidney stones, appendicitis or dental problems when an MRI or ultrasound would be sufficient. Some physicians urge further steps must be taken to ensure the test is administered with precaution. An estimated four million children a year receive CT scans in the United States and research suggests one third of these scans are unnecessary or avoidable. When the risk of cancer is present, all possible discretion should be taken to safeguard the lives of children.