Can Tomography Cause Cancer?

Expert answer:

It can not be said that CT scan can cause cancer because there is no scientific evidence that associate computed tomography with the development of cancer.

However, tomography is among the most radiation-emitting radiological exams and it is known that exposure to moderate and high doses of radiation greatly increases the risk of cancer.

These findings are mainly based on studies done with survivors of the atomic bomb explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

THE ionizing radiation emitted by the CT scanner is the same type of radioactivity emitted in a nuclear explosion. This radiation can DNA of the cell, leading to cell mutations that can cause cancer.

What types of cancer can CT scan cause?

There are tissues that are more sensitive to radiation than others and so are more prone to develop cancer. Thus, CT could increase the risks of:

  • Thyroid cancer;
  • Breast cancer;
  • Lung cancer;
  • Colon cancer;
  • Skin cancer;
  • Leukemia (blood cancer).

Which CT scans offer the highest risk of cancer?

  • Tomography of abdomen and pelvis;
  • Chest tomography;
  • Skull tomography (Read also: Skull tomography: how is it made and what is it for?);
  • Angiography ("tomography" of the blood vessels).

Although most people receive relatively low radiation doses on CT scans, some receive moderate, high, or very high doses. However, even lower doses of radiation may increase the risk of cancer.

To get an idea of ​​the amount of radiation that the body absorbs on a CT scan, a person absorbs about 3 mSv of radiation from the environment per year.

During a chest or abdomen scan, for example, the absorption is 7.0 and 8.0 mSv, respectively.

After all, is computed tomography a safe exam?

CT scan is a safe examination, as long as it is used in the recommended doses and only when the benefit of their use outweighs the risks.

The problem occurs when the CT scan is started and the patient is exposed unnecessarily to the radiation.

Even if the radioactivity dose of each test is small, it may pose future risks to the person's health if such exposure becomes frequent, such as in annual check-ups, for example.

Therefore, it is important to decrease the number of unnecessary CT scans as well as the radiation doses used.

The radiologist is the specialist responsible for CT scanning.