Previous studies of children born between 1940 and 1970 found an increase in childhood cancer, particularly leukemia, in those exposed to x-ray before birth. The higher x-ray doses of instruments used in those decades is believed to be responsible for the reported increase in this population.
A new study conducted by the UK and the US scientists showed a small increase in the risk of various cancers in children younger than three months who undergo x-ray imaging as well as those whose mothers were exposed to x-rays during pregnancy.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of about 2,700 children with cancer and more than 4,800 kids with no malignancy including, all born between 1976 and 1996.
A slight increase was reported in the risk of all cancers, mainly leukemia, following intrauterine exposure to x-ray, the study found.
Undergoing x-ray imaging in early infancy is associated with a small, non-significant increased risk of all childhood cancers, particularly leukemia and lymphoma, researchers wrote in the BMJ.
“Our results, which indicate possible risks of cancer from radiation at doses lower than those associated with CT 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,” scientists concluded.
The new study also found no association between intrauterine exposure to ultrasound scans and childhood cancer.