News FocusRadiology

Second Thoughts About CT Imaging

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Science  25 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6020, pp. 1002-1004
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6020.1002

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David Brenner directs Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research, where he focuses on exactly how radiation damage leads to cancer. He's become one of the most insistent voices in an imbroglio that is roiling radiologists, medical physicists, and the general public over the rising and largely unregulated use of computed tomography (CT) scans, and whether the technology can, in some cases, cause more harm than good. The risks are surprisingly unclear, given how old and how commonly used the technology is. Brenner found that each CT scan gives a patient a very small chance of developing cancer, although many radiologists and medical physicists say that for a single CT scan, there's no hard evidence of any raised cancer risk. But even the skeptics favor managing potential CT risks, if for no other reason than to reassure patients. As the debate rages, the number of CT scans administered continues to soar and shows no sign of slowing down.