Trend: Growth in CT scans concerns some

Over the last 25 years, the number of CT scans performed yearly in the U.S. has gone up dramatically, from about 3 million in 1980 to about 67 million in 2006, in part thanks to speedier technology, more machines and a longer list of possible uses for the scan. As the number of scans being performed rises, some observers are beginning to be concerned that the increased radiation exposure could cause excess cancers, while others argue that the benefits of such scans outweighs the risks considerably.

Some prominent medical groups have issued warnings against excessive CT scan use, especially among children. They note that CT scans expose people to 150 times more radiation than standard X-rays, or twice as much as a person gets from the environment in a year. On the one side, some providers are arguing that it's crazy to avoid getting a CT scan due to the very small radiation exposure risk, at least if the scan is being done correctly and for the right reasons.

Epidemiologists warn that, while even this level of radiation generates relatively little risk, the extremely high volume of scans could be responsible for as much as 2 percent of all cancers in the U.S., or 6,000 extra cancers each year.

To learn more about this debate:
- read this piece from The Washington Post

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