Estimated Radiation Risks Potentially Associated with Full-Body CT Screening

PURPOSE: To estimate the radiation-related cancer mortality risks associated with single or repeated full-body computed tomographic (CT) examinations by using standard radiation risk estimation methods.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The estimated dose to the lung or stomach from a single full-body CT examination is 14–21 mGy, which corresponds to a dose region for which there is direct evidence of increased cancer mortality in atomic bomb survivors. Total doses for repeated examinations are correspondingly higher. The authors used estimated cancer risks in a U.S. population derived from atomic bomb–associated cancer mortality data, together with calculated organ doses from a full-body CT examination, to estimate the radiation risks associated with single and multiple full-body CT examinations.

RESULTS: A single full-body CT examination in a 45-year-old adult would result in an estimated lifetime attributable cancer mortality risk of around 0.08%, with the 95% credibility limits being a factor of 3.2 in either direction. A 45-year-old adult who plans to undergo annual full-body CT examinations up to age 75 (30 examinations) would accrue an overall estimated lifetime attributable risk of cancer mortality of about 1.9%, with the 95% credibility limits being a factor of 2 in either direction.

CONCLUSION: The authors provide estimates of lifetime cancer mortality risks from both single and annual full-body CT examinations. These risk estimates are needed to assess the utility of full-body CT examinations from both an individual and a public health perspective.

© RSNA, 2004

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Article History

Published in print: Sept 2004