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Cancer Risk Increases With Complex Heart Tests, Study Finds

Update Date: Jun 25, 2014 09:51 AM EDT

Complex heart imaging can increase cancer risk for children throughout their lifetime, according to a new study. The study is first to quantify the cumulative radiation doses in pediatric heart patients. 

The study also predicts lifetime cancer risks based on the types of exposure.

Researchers noted that the radiation from standard X-rays don't significantly raise cancer risks for young children, but more complex procedures with higher radiation, i.e.,  cardiac catherizations and computed tomography (CT) scans do have higher risks. 

"Cancer risk overall is relatively low, but we hope that this awareness will encourage providers to limit radiation exposure in children, when alternative procedures can offer the same benefit with less radiation," said co-author of the study Le Bonheur Cardiologist Jason Johnson, MD, MHS, in the press release.

Researchers reviewed medical records to find the most common imaging procedures, calculated how much radiation organs absorb during each procedure, then used a National Academy of Sciences report to analyze lifetime cancer risks based on the amounts of each procedure's exposure. Lifetime cancer risk increases ranged from 0.002 percent for chest X-rays to 0.4 percent for complex CT scans and cardiac catheterizations, the press release added.

The study appears in the June 9, 2014, issue of the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.  

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