Radiation from cardia angioplasty or myocardial perfusion imaging increases cancer risk

A study of more than 82,000 heart patients in Quebec was published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). It concludes that radiation used in cardiac angioplasty or myocardial perfusion imaging is strong enough to cause a five per cent increase in cancer risk during the five years after imaging.

Our colleagues at the Science Media Centre of Canada received the following comments from Dr. Gerald Wisenberg, Past President of the Canadian Association of Nuclear Cardiology.

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Gerald Wisenberg, Cardiac Imaging Specialist at the London Health Science Center and  Professor of the Departments of Medicine, Radiology, and Medical Biophysics at University of Western Ontario, comments:

“If this data is valid, I am surprised at the size of the risk, at the magnitude of the impact of those small doses of radiation on the risk of cancer.

“We first have to check the data. We have to look very carefully at this data to be sure it is valid and reliable. If  true, we will have to pause for concern and see how to best use this information, how best advise the patient community. I don’t want to generate undue alarm. Don’t forget that we are treating heart diseases which also kill, often sooner than cancer does. So, we have to weight both the short term and the long term.

“Maybe we will have to look at alternative procedures which give almost the same information without any radiation… but they may also cost more. There are so many factors.

“Beside cardiac imagery, we will need to take a broader look at the whole nuclear medicine field. Doses of 10 millisieverts are very common and patients often receive many of them in a year. We will need cumulative logs of patient exposure. It will have to be a factor in the overall health care risk.