New research finds that Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan), used widely to detect weak heart conditions could lead to an increased risk of cancer among young women.
The findings have important implications because the scans are often used to diagnose blockages in arteries among millions of chest pain patients who turn up every year in emergency rooms.
The scan looks for coronary artery disease by building up a 3D picture of the heart and the snag is that the cancer risk from the scan for women in their twenties seems to be much higher than for other groups, doctors said.
The researchers focused on 64-slice CT scanners, which were approved in 2004 and found that they deliver more radiation than earlier models, reported the online edition of USA Today.
"The magnitude of this risk is something we hadn't appreciated," said researcher Andrew Einstein of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
"If you look at older women the risk is very small. But for a woman younger than 40 or 50, I'm going to be hesitant (to use it)" Einstein said.
The study found that one of every 143 women who are scanned once at age 20 will get cancer, usually of the breast.
That is 23 times the one in 3261 cancer risk for 80-year-old men, the researchers reported in the journal of American Medical association.
Cancer risk can be higher in young women because breast tissue is sensitive to radiation and doctors can't scan the heart without exposing the breasts. By middle age, a woman's breast cancer risk falls off and the lung cancer risk rises, the researchers said.