Prenatal Exposure to Diagnostic X-Rays Associated with Nonsignificant Increase in Pediatric Cancers

A BMJ study suggests a slightly — albeit nonsignificant — increased risk for childhood cancer from diagnostic x-rays in utero and in early childhood.

Researchers assessed prenatal and early childhood exposure to radiation and ultrasounds through parental interviews and medical records of some 2700 children with cancer and 4900 age- and sex-matched controls in the U.K.

They found a modestly increased risk for all cancers after prenatal exposure to x-rays, but this result was not statistically significant. Similarly, they found a nonsignificant increase in cancer risk after exposure to diagnostic radiography in early infancy (0 to 100 days). With radiographs in early infancy, the risk for lymphoma reached statistical significance, but it was only based on seven cases. Ultrasound scans were not associated with cancer.

The authors conclude that their results, “which indicate possible risks of cancer from radiation at doses lower than those associated with computed tomography scans, suggest a need for cautious use of diagnostic radiation imaging procedures to the abdomen/pelvis of the mother during pregnancy and in children at very young ages.”