Articles in the scientific literature and lay press over the past several years have implied that computed tomography (CT) may cause cancer and that physicians and patients must exercise caution in its use. Although there is broad agreement on the latter point--unnecessary medical tests of any type should always be avoided--there is considerable controversy surrounding the question of whether, or to what extent, CT scans can lead to future cancers. Although the doses used in CT are higher than those used in conventional radiographic examinations, they are still 10 to 100 times lower than the dose levels that have been reported to increase the risk of cancer. Despite the fact that at the low doses associated with a CT scan the risk either is too low to be convincingly demonstrated or does not exist, the magnitude of the concern among patients and some medical professionals that CT scans increase cancer risk remains unreasonably high. In this article, common questions about CT scanning and radiation are answered to provide physicians with accurate information on which to base their medical decisions and respond to patient questions.
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