X-rays: four times more risk of cancer in children than in adults
Children are different from adults in many things; Your body is smaller, it is constantly growing and your organs are more sensitive to radiation than the organs of adults. “With the same diagnostic test, a child can receive up to four times more radiation than an adult if the appropriate technique is not used,” which translates into four times more chances of developing a radio-induced cancer , says Gloria Gómez Mardones, responsible for Professional Affairs of the Spanish Society of Medical Radiology (SERAM) and head of service of the Niño Jesús Hospital in Madrid.
In addition, children have a longer life expectancy. “This assumes that they will be subject to a greater number of exposures, so it must always be assured that any test is justified and has greater benefit than the associated risk,” warns the expert. Thus, for Gómez Mardones “the assessment of the risk to a radiation exposure can not be the same for a person of 70 years that for a child of seven, who will live longer, will be exposed more times along his life and is more at risk of developing radio-induced cancer than an adult. ”
The characteristics of the pediatric patient mean that the risk of a medical test such as a computed tomography (CT) or an interventional procedure is greater than in the case of the elderly. To reduce this risk, the European Union approved in January 2014 new legislation laying down basic safety standards for protection against dangers arising from exposure to ionizing radiation ( Directive 2013/59 / Euratom ). This law, which must be assimilated by the Member States before February 6, 2018, considers the medical exposure of children as a special practice .
Taking into account the risks involved in radiological exposure, Gómez Mardones emphasizes that, whenever it is necessary to subject a child to a diagnostic test of this type, “the diagnostic image should be obtained with the radiation dose as low as possible and should seek, whenever possible, other alternatives or substitute tests that do not radiate, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance, “safer in this sense than CT or interventional radiology, characterized by high doses of radiation involved.
The experts consider of utmost importance that the technical protocols used are adapted to the size and characteristics of the patient, which, in the case of children, requires special attention, since their physical constitution varies substantially according to their age. ” A newborn is not the same as a 15-year-old adolescent , who may resemble an adult more,” illustrates the head of the Radiology Service of the Infant Jesus Niño University Hospital.
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