People who received frequent dental x-rays in the past have an increased risk of developing the most commonly diagnosed primary brain tumor in the United States. That is the finding of a study published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. Although dental x-rays are necessary in many cases, these findings suggest that moderate use of this form of imaging may be of benefit to some patients.
Ionizing radiation is the primary environmental risk factor for developing meningioma, which is the most frequently diagnosed primary brain tumor in the United States. Dental x-rays are the most common artificial source of exposure to ionizing radiation for individuals living in the United States.
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There are a lot of cautions we should consider when interpreting this study. First, it relied on memory of having dental x-rays taken. That is unreliable. Second, we can only say that this study showed a correlation. Another study has not confirmed the correlation and correlation is not causation. It is not possible to rule out othen potential causes so this can NEVER be proven. It can tell us that there is something interesting there to consider. Other potential causes could be related to lifestyle or genetics, for example. It’s not clear those factors were taken into account. To examine more potential factors make studies WAY more complicated and expensive.
So, what to take away from such news? Well, do you really need frequent screenings if you show no symptoms? This has been debated about mammograms, gynecological exams, cancer screenings and more. I certainly don’t agree that this one result is a reason to shy away from x-rays but may be a signal that we ought to defer from too many when they aren’t necessary. This piece just came out last week: Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients .
I expect more will come from this result since it’s making quite a splash. Stay tuned.