Caution urged over CT scan radiation doses

9:24am Friday 15th August 2014

content supplied by NHS Choices

However, it says that 70% of indications for CT scans recommended by guidance relate to benign (non-harmful) or potentially benign conditions. It says that CT scans are increasingly being used as a standard investigation, replacing other conventional ways of detecting health problems.

There are potential risks related to radiation. Radiation can cause immediate direct damage to body tissues (such as radiation burns and hair loss), although usually only when given at higher doses. More problematically, radiation is also recognised as a carcinogen. It could potentially be involved in the future development of cancers for the person being scanned, or potentially having genetic effects in any future children.

Overall, there is uncertainty about the level of risk from radiation from CT scans. The risk to anyone is influenced by many factors, including age and size, the part of the body being scanned, number of scans given and radiation dose, and the radiosensitivity and genetic susceptibility of the individual.

Studies to date examining radiation risk are often population-based studies that have not accounted for important factors such as the age or medical prognosis of that person, making it difficult to attribute radiation as the direct cause of any outcomes.

UK law means that medical radiation exposures for patients must be:


What does the COMARE report recommend?

COMARE recommends encouraging a more proactive approach to protecting the patient and reducing radiation dose as part of its good practice advice.

It wants:

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter. Join the Healthy Evidence forum.


BBC News reports on a sharp rise in the number of CT scans being performed, exposing people to the potential health risks of radiation. However, as The Daily Telegraph says, it is not possible to calculate the cancer risk...

Links to Headlines

Sharp rise in CT scans on children and adults. BBC News, August 14 2014

Cancers caused by CT scan cannot be calculated due to lack of data: Comare report. The Daily Telegraph, August 15 2014

Cancer fears prompt call to cut hospitals' CT scan radiation levels. The Guardian, August 15 2014

Further Readings

Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment. Patient radiation dose issues resulting from the use of CT in the UK (16th report). Published August 14 2014


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