A new study has exposed that obese patients who undergo an x-ray are at a larger risk of developing cancer. This is due to the higher radiation dose required in obese people to get an adequate image.
The study was published in the Journal of Radiological Protection. The University of Exeter and Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, led the study. It included more than 600 patients who had experienced surgery for weight loss.
The scientists observed 630 patients with a history of radiation dose in X-rays carried out between 2007 and 2015. The patients included in the study had a body mass index of up to 50. This indicates that they were severely obese and almost twice the mass they should be for their height.
They had undergone measures like the fitting of gastric bands, gastric bypasses or gastric sleeves at Musgrove Park Hospital. This hospital is a national center of excellence for bariatric surgery and diagnostic imaging.
During an x-ray, the experts observed that obese patients received higher doses of radiation than normal weight. That is required due to the increased amount of tissue which was needed to be imaged.
Researchers concluded that the large cancer risk caused by the additional radiation was more than double (153%) in obese than normal-weight people undergoing X-ray. Though, the cancer risk from X-ray is low.
Total 22.6 million X-ray measures were carried out from 2015-16 in England. Almost 280 cancers may have been linked to X-ray related radiation exposure. X-rays are known as saving numerous lives by detecting abnormalities in the body.
Karen Knapp, Associate Professor at the University of Exeter, oversaw the study. He said, “X-rays are an important diagnostic device. And radiographers perform their best to reduce the patient’s risk.
However, our outcomes highlight the effects of increased radiation exposures in extremely obese patients. Though the risk of cancer from X-ray is low, we immediately need further research in patients who are obese and overweight.
So, we can recognize how to minimize doses in this group and feed into far more healthy strategies around radiation, to reduce that risk.”
Radiographers project radiation-ray photons through the body for an X-ray image. The dosage varies depending on the part of the body and the size of the patient. It generally takes an increased dose to project through an abdomen than a chest. And higher doses are required for larger patients.
The radiation stimulates body tissue and possible harmful effects are related to chance in the amounts used in analytical imaging. However, the higher the dose, the more likely it is to cause cell damage. Therefore, radiation doses are kept as low as practically possible and imaging is only demanded where it is required.
However, now there are no rules and procedures about how to minimize radiation doses in obese. Now, the scientists consider this is necessary to minimize the risk of cancer contact in this group.
Lead author Saeed Al-Qahtani, a Ph.D. student at the University of Exeter, said: “As a radiographer and a scientist, I trust that the radiation doses figures are only to be expected due to the lack of guidelines to help to image in patients of this group.
“As well as the radiation doses given to the patient, many technical aspects pay to the image quality. We already started working on this matter to produce prediction models. That can support radiographers to select the best technical aspects based on the size of the patient.”
The study did not consider other risk factors for cancer, like smoking or a family history of the disease.
It looked at patients who had a weight-loss surgical procedure and were therefore obese. It is uncertain how at risk moderately obese people are of developing cancer because of X-rays.