Australian Study – Increased cancer risk with CT scans

28 May 2013

The British Medical Journal has today published the findings of a large Australian study led by Professor John Mathews, reporting an increased cancer risk associated with CT scans, particularly for children.

The RACGP is aware of emerging evidence strongly suggesting that there is a slightly higher risk of a person developing cancer in later life if they were exposed to ionising radiation from a CT scan as a child. Such evidence confirms the importance of what has long been the aim of ensuring that imaging is performed only when clinically necessary and radiation dose is as low as reasonably achievable.

Dr Liz Marles, RACGP President said “There has long been an awareness of the potential links between exposure to ionising radiation from CT (Computed Tomography) scans and an individual’s increased risk in developing cancer later in life. Despite this, medical and radiation experts agree CT is an important diagnostic imaging tool that can help save lives. As with all medical interventions, use of CT involves risks as well as benefits.”

The RACGP acknowledges a number of Government initiatives already in place to reduce associated CT risk. Initiatives include expanded access to Medicare funded Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) services (announced in November 2012) allowing GPs to order MRIs for all patients under the age of 16 for a small set of clinically appropriate indications, in addition to the funding of a number of projects to improve the level of education being provided to health professionals on how to reduce radiation exposure.

Professor Chris Baggoley, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA), has emphasised that parents whose children have had a CT scan or who may be faced with this procedure in the future, should not be alarmed but should just be aware of the potential risks associated with CT and ensure that they discuss the procedure with their treating doctor.

Health professionals referring children to have a CT scan are encouraged to download a copy of DoHA’s information fact sheet for referrers. An information fact sheet is also available for parents detailing what they should know about CT scans for children.

Fact sheets are available at the following links: