A new study in the British Medical Journal warns doctors again about the risks associated with the use of X-rays during pregnancy and infancy. There may be a connection between childhood cancer risk and X-ray use during these times. Doctors note it is crucial for pregnancy testing to be completed on women before X-rays are completed to reduce the risk to the fetus.

Clinical studies completed between 1940 and 1970, found increased risk of childhood cancer, especially leukemia, associated with the use of X-rays during pregnancy. The effect on infants and younger children has not been as clear as the risk during pregnancy.

While X-rays are rarely used on the abdominal area of pregnant women, it may be CT scans and other imaging tests that are on the hot seat this time around. Researchers collected medical records from more than 2,500 children diagnosed with cancer and nearly 4,900 children without a cancer diagnosis. The children were born between the years 1976 and 1996.

About 300 children were exposed to radiation through diagnostic procedures while in utero. Another 170 infants received diagnostic testing. Doctors found the increased risk of cancer after infant diagnostic testing to be small (only seven cases), but that increased risk is enough to give researchers reason to look into the issue further.

Source: British Medical Journal. Preetha Rajaraman, Jill Simpson, Gila Neta, Amy Berrington de Gonzalez, Pan Ansell, Martha S. Linet, Elaine Ron and Eve Roman. 10 February, 2011.

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