Cancer risks increase with complex heart tests

June 24, 2014

Complex heart imaging can increase cancer risks for children throughout their lifetime, according to a new study co-authored by Le Bonheur Cardiologist Jason Johnson, MD, MHS. The study, which appears in the June 9, 2014 issue of the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, is the first in which researchers quantified cumulative radiation doses in pediatric heart patients and predicted lifetime cancer risks based on the types of exposures.

In the study, Johnson and fellow researchers found that radiation from standard X-rays don't significantly raise cancer risks for young children, in general, but children undergoing more complex procedures with higher radiation - like cardiac catherizations and computed tomography (CT) scans have higher risks.

"Cancer risk overall is relatively low, but we hope that this awareness will encourage providers to limit radiation exposure in children, when alternative procedures can offer the same benefit with less radiation," Johnson said.

Researchers reviewed medical records to find the most common imaging procedures, calculated how much radiation organs absorb during each procedure, then used a National Academy of Sciences report to analyze lifetime cancer risks based on the amounts of each procedure's exposure. Lifetime cancer risk increases ranged from 0.002 percent for chest X-rays to 0.4 percent for complex CT scans and cardiac catheterizations.

Johnson is an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and specializes in congenital heart disease and advanced cardiovascular imaging. He helped complete the research at Duke University Medical Center, where he completed his pediatric cardiology and advance imaging fellowships.

To learn more about the study, visit lebonheur.org/physicians.
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About Le Bonheur Children's Hospital

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., treats more than 250,000 children each year in a 255-bed hospital that features state-of-the-art technology and family-friendly resources. Nationally recognized, Le Bonheur is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Children's Hospital. Serving as a primary teaching affiliate for the University Tennessee Health Science Center, the hospital trains more pediatricians than any other hospital in the state. For more information, please call (901) 287-6030 or visit lebonheur.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/lebonheurchild or like us at Facebook at facebook.com/lebonheurchildrens.

About the University of Tennessee Health Science Center

As the flagship statewide academic health system, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is focused on a four-tier mission of education, research, clinical care and public service, all in support of a single goal: to improve the health of Tennesseans. Offering a broad range of postgraduate training opportunities, the main campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC has additional College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy campuses in Knoxville, and a College of Medicine campus in Chattanooga. For more information, visit http://www.uthsc.edu.

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital

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