HealthDay News — Cellular damage occurs when people undergo computed tomography (CT) scans, but whether or not this causes cancer or any other health problems is unclear.

Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute in California, and colleagues examined the blood of 67 people before and after they had undergone cardiac computed tomographic angiography. After the scans, the research did show an increase in DNA damage in cells, as well as cell death. There was also increased expression of genes involved in the repair or death of cells, the researchers found. Most cells damaged by the CT scan were repaired.

Published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, the report noted that researchers didn’t find any DNA damage in healthy people who were of average weight who had the lowest doses of radiation during their CT scans. Still, the team noted that a CT scan exposes patients to at least 150 times the amount of radiation from a single chest X-ray. And in 2007, the U.S. National Cancer Institute predicted that 29,000 future cancer cases could be linked to the 72 million CT scans performed in the country that year alone.

“We now know that even exposure to small amounts of radiation from [CT] scanning is associated with cellular damage,” study author Patricia Nguyen, MD, an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford, said in a university news release. However, she added that it’s still not clear from this study whether or not this causes cancer or any negative effect to the patient. The findings should encourage physicians to use CT scan dose-reduction strategies, she said.


1.Nguyen P, et al. JACC Cardiovasc. 2015; doi: 10.1016/j.jcmg.2015.04.016.