Rationale: Computed tomography (CT) is being considered as a tool for routine monitoring of lung damage in people with cystic fibrosis. Concern has been raised, however, about the associated risk of radiation-induced cancer.
Objectives: To estimate the risk of radiation-induced cancer from lung CT for patients with cystic fibrosis, assuming annual monitoring starting at age 2 years.
Methods: Radiation risk models (derived primarily from the study of Japanese atomic bomb survivors) were used to estimate the excess risk of radiation-induced cancer for the organs that receive measurable doses from lung CT. Two scenarios were considered: median survival to age 36 years (approximate current median survival) and median survival to age 50 years (projected median survival by 2030).
Measurements and main results: The estimated risk of radiation-induced cancer from annual lung CT was 0.02% for males and 0.07% for females assuming median survival to age 36 years. The estimated risks increased to 0.08% for males and 0.46% for females assuming median survival increases to age 50 years. The risks are higher for females because of the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer (50% of total risk) and higher risk of thyroid cancer.
Conclusions: The cumulative risk of radiation-induced cancer from repeated lung CT scans for patients with cystic fibrosis is relatively small (less than 0.5%). However, routine monitoring should not be recommended until there is a demonstrated benefit that will outweigh these risks.