Radiation From Cardiac Imaging May Increase Cancer Risks

Exposure to low-dose radiation from cardiac imaging and other procedures following heart attack has been linked to increased cancer risks says an emerging study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), wrote Science Daily.

Procedures that utilize low-dose ionizing radiation—for instance, computed tomography (CT) angiography and nuclear scans—are on the rise, which has those in the medical profession concerned about Cancer from Cardiac Imaging and Excess Radiation, said Science Daily.

There is a trend for increased Diagnostic Imaging for those who suffer, or who are believe to suffer from coronary artery disease, noted Science Daily. Worse, often procedures that use radiation are replacing radiation-free procedures including, for example, said Science Daily, stress tests that are conducted on exercise equipment and echocardiography. Of note, said Science Daily, there is little information on radiation exposure and cancer risks.

Researchers at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Jewish General Hospital in Montréal, Quebec conducted the study, reviewing data on 82,861 patients who suffered a heart attack between April 1996 and March 2006 and who had no history of cancer, said Science Daily. Of these, 77 percent experienced at least one cardiac procedure within one year of a heart attack with the procedure using low-dose ionizing radiation.

“We found a relation between the cumulative exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation from cardiac imaging and therapeutic procedures after acute myocardial infarction, and the risk of incident cancer,” wrote Dr. Louise Pilote, researcher in epidemiology at the Research Institute of the MUHC and director of the Division of Internal Medicine at the MUHC, with co-authors, quoted Science Daily. “Although most patients were exposed to low or moderate levels of radiation, a substantial group were exposed to high levels and in general tended to be younger male patients with fewer comorbidities,” they added.

The patients’ median age was 63.2 years; 31.7 percent were female. Those patients with a treating physician who was a cardiologist experienced increased levels of radiation exposure versus those whose treating physician was a general practitioner, noted Science Daily. Some 12,020 incident cancers were detected during follow-up; most—2/3rds—involved “cancers affecting the abdomen/pelvis and chest areas,” explained Science Daily.

“These results call into question whether our current enthusiasm for imaging and therapeutic procedures after acute myocardial infarction should be tempered,” the authors concluded. “We should at least consider putting into place a system of prospectively documenting the imaging tests and procedures that each patient undergoes and estimating his or her cumulative exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation,” they suggested.

Mathew Mercuri, McMaster University, and coauthors, wrote, in a related commentary, that while the radiation exposure emitted from many of these tests is low, “the frequency with which such tests are performed may pose a population risk,” quoted Science Daily.

Radiation from medical procedures has been a mounting issue in recent months. We recently wrote that risks for developing childhood leukemia are increased by diagnostic X-rays, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. Also, children face a potentially serious radiation risk when they go to the dentist, according to a recent report in The New York Times. And, late last year, U.S. health regulators urged makers of CT Scan Machines to implement two recommendations to lessen the likelihood that patients undergoing the procedures could be exposed to radiation overdoses.

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