July 20, 2024

Association between CT scans in young people and increased risk of cancer confirmed by multinational study

A recent multinational study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has confirmed a strong and clear association between exposure to radiation from CT scans in young people and an increased risk of blood cancers. The study, known as the EPI-CT study and funded by the European Union, analyzed data from almost one million individuals and concluded that there is a need for strict radiological protection measures, particularly in pediatric populations.

While the benefits of CT scans in patient management are widely acknowledged, concerns have been raised about the potential cancer risks associated with exposure to ionizing radiation, especially in young patients. The study found that the use of CT scans in children and young adults is associated with an increased risk of cancer.

The exposure to radiation from CT scans is considered low, but it is still higher than for other diagnostic procedures. Previous studies have suggested an increased risk of cancer in children exposed to CT scans, but they had limitations in terms of methodology.

To address these limitations, clinicians, epidemiologists, and dosimetrists from nine European countries came together to conduct the EPI-CT study. This multinational and large-scale study involved extracting data from radiology records of 276 hospitals and linking them to population-based registries in nine countries while ensuring the confidentiality of individuals’ data.

The study analyzed data from individuals who had undergone at least one CT scan before the age of 22. The researchers estimated the dose of radiation delivered to the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced, for each person. By linking this information to national cancer registries, the researchers were able to identify those who developed a blood cancer over time.

The results showed a clear association between the total radiation doses from CT scans to the bone marrow and the risk of developing both myeloid and lymphoid malignancies. A dose of 100 mGy multiplied the risk of developing a blood cancer by a factor of about 3. This suggests that a typical CT scan today, with an average dose of about 8 mGy, increases the risk of developing these malignancies by about 16%.

The study has significant public health implications, considering that over one million children in Europe undergo CT scans each year. Although radiation doses from CT scans have decreased, the study emphasizes the need to raise awareness among the medical community and to continue to apply strict radiation protection measures, especially in young patients.

The researchers also highlight the importance of properly justifying the use of CT scans and considering possible alternatives. They recommend optimizing the procedure to ensure that doses are as low as possible while maintaining good image quality for accurate diagnosis.

The findings of this study call for the systematic and adequate collection of doses and technical parameters in real-time to improve risk estimates in the future. By implementing these measures, medical practitioners can reduce the risk posed by CT scans and ensure the safety of patients, particularly children and young adults.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it