University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have revealed that children who are exposed to head and neck radiation during a CT scan or cancer treatment may have an increased risk of thyroid cancer in adulthood.
The paper, which was published in the December issue of the journal Radiation Research, provided findings that may explain why the rates of thyroid cancer are continuing to rise, as the general public is becoming increasingly exposed to radiation through some medical procedures.
“Ionizing radiation is a known carcinogen and, in fact, about 1 million CT scans are performed every year on children five years or younger,” said lead author Jacob Adams. “Although CTs and other imaging tests are an important diagnostic tool, with everything comes a risk.”
He and his colleagues assessed a group of patients who had been treated with chest radiotherapy during infancy as a result of an enlarged thymus. Of the 1,303 individuals evaluated, 50 developed thyroid cancer, compared to only 13 controls out of 1,768 people who had not undergone radiation therapy.
According to the researchers, the study supports previous evidence showing that the risk of thyroid cancer due to radiation exposure may continue for children for a median of 57.5 years.