Americans get about 62 million CT scans every year — which could ultimately cause 1.5% to 2% of all cancers in this country, according to an estimate published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine (online here).
The article suggests that, while many scans are useful and even life-saving, others might be replaced with other procedures. For example, the authors say, ultrasound may often be as effective as CT when diagnosing appendicitis in children.
It is tough to estimate the risk of developing cancer from radiation risk. As the authors (two Ph.D.s from Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research) point out, most such estimates are based on studies of survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.
Arl Van Moore, chairman the American College of Radiology’s board, told the WSJ that “there are scans performed that may well be unnecessary,”
he called the authors’ conclusions about the possible 2% rate of future cancer diagnoses “a reach.”