CHILDREN undergoing life-saving CT scans could triple the risk of developing leukaemia and brain tumours, North East scientists have warned.
Research from Newcastle University suggests the use of the 3D X-rays can break-down DNA and damage gene cells to trigger the life-threatening illnesses.
Previously medics have relied on risk estimates drawn from tests on Japanese atomic bomb veterans in the Second World War, which indicated that exposure posed a health risk.
Now scientists in Newcastle have studied data on around 180,000 patients under the age of 22 who had CT scans at UK hospitals between 1985 and 2002.
For the first time, research has proven that exposure to radiation from the low-dose scans can escalate the risk of brain tumours and leukaemia by up to three times.
Last night Dr Mark Pearce, the lead researcher at Newcastle University, said the scans were a “life-saving tool”, but called for “better justification” for the use of the equipment.
Dr Pearce said: “What we’ve been looking at is whether there is a potential cancer risk in children and young adults who have CT scans.
“We’ve found significant increased risks of brain tumours and leukaemia in line with the number of doses of radiation from the scans.
“The scans have been around since the early 1970s, but up until now no one has been able to study this in the way that we have. This is the first study using empirical data.
“What’s important to stress is that the trebling of risk is the trebling of a very small risk. However, it is important that CT scans are only used when justified.”