Recurrent CT, cumulative radiation exposure, and associated radiation-induced cancer risks from CT of adults

Radiology. 2009 Apr;251(1):175-84. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2511081296.


Purpose: To estimate cumulative radiation exposure and lifetime attributable risk (LAR) of radiation-induced cancer from computed tomographic (CT) scanning of adult patients at a tertiary care academic medical center.

Materials and methods: This HIPAA-compliant study was approved by the institutional review board with waiver of informed consent. The cohort comprised 31,462 patients who underwent diagnostic CT in 2007 and had undergone 190,712 CT examinations over the prior 22 years. Each patient's cumulative CT radiation exposure was estimated by summing typical CT effective doses, and the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VII methodology was used to estimate LAR on the basis of sex and age at each exposure. Billing ICD9 codes and electronic order entry information were used to stratify patients with LAR greater than 1%.

Results: Thirty-three percent of patients underwent five or more lifetime CT examinations, and 5% underwent between 22 and 132 examinations. Fifteen percent received estimated cumulative effective doses of more than 100 mSv, and 4% received between 250 and 1375 mSv. Associated LAR had mean and maximum values of 0.3% and 12% for cancer incidence and 0.2% and 6.8% for cancer mortality, respectively. CT exposures were estimated to produce 0.7% of total expected baseline cancer incidence and 1% of total cancer mortality. Seven percent of the cohort had estimated LAR greater than 1%, of which 40% had either no malignancy history or a cancer history without evidence of residual disease.

Conclusion: Cumulative CT radiation exposure added incrementally to baseline cancer risk in the cohort. While most patients accrue low radiation-induced cancer risks, a subgroup is potentially at higher risk due to recurrent CT imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Burden*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models*
  • Radiometry
  • Sex Distribution
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult