X-Rays in Utero, Early Infancy Could Raise Cancer Risk

Increased risks from diagnostic X-rays are slight, nonsignificant

FRIDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- In utero and early infancy exposure to diagnostic X-rays may increase the risk for childhood cancers, according to research published online Feb. 10 in BMJ.

Preetha Rajaraman, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues studied 2,690 children with cancer and 4,858 matched controls to examine the cancer risks associated with in utero and early infancy diagnostic radiation and ultrasound exposure.

The researchers found no evidence of an association between in utero exposure to ultrasound scans and childhood cancer, but some indication that in utero X-ray exposure might slightly raise the risk for all cancers and leukemia, though this was not statistically significant. X-ray exposure in early infancy was associated with a slightly higher, nonsignificant excess risk for all cancers and leukemia, and an increased risk for lymphoma based on small numbers (just seven cases).

"Although the results for lymphoma need to be replicated, all of the findings indicate possible risks of cancer from radiation at doses lower than those associated with commonly used procedures such as computed tomography scans, suggesting the need for cautious use of diagnostic radiation imaging procedures to the abdomen/pelvis of the mother during pregnancy and in children at very young ages," the authors write.

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