Background: The use of computed tomography in Israel has been growing rapidly during recent decades. The major drawback of this important technology is the exposure to ionizing radiation, especially among children who have increased organ radiosensitivity and a long lifetime to potentially develop radiation-related cancer.
Objective: To estimate the number of excess lifetime cancer deaths related to annual CT scans performed in children in Israel.
Methods: We used CT scan utilization data from 1999 to 2003 obtained from the second largest health management organization in the country to project age and gender-specific CT scan use nationwide. Based on published organ doses for common CT examinations and radiation-related cancer mortality risk estimates from studies in survivors of the atomic bomb, we estimated the excess lifetime risks for cancer mortality attributed to use of CT in children and adolescents (up to 18 years old) in Israel.
Results: We estimated that 17,686 pediatric scans were conducted annually in Israel during 1999-2003. We project that 9.5 lifetime deaths would be associated with 1 year of pediatric CT scanning. This number represents an excess of 0.29% over the total number of patients who are eventually estimated to die from cancer in their lifetime.
Conclusions: Pediatric CT scans in Israel may result in a small but not negligible increased lifetime risk for cancer mortality. Because of the uncertainty regarding radiation effects at low doses, our estimates of CT-related cancer mortality should be considered with caution. Nevertheless, physicians, CT technologists, and health authorities should work together to minimize the radiation dose for children to as low as reasonably achievable and encourage responsible use of this essential diagnostic tool.