A study published in the online edition of Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society has found a link between dental x-rays and brain tumors. Researchers say that having dental x-rays is the most common source of exposure to ionizing radiation, which has been linked to meningiomas in the past.
The study gathered 1,433 people between the ages of 20 and 79 years old, that were diagnosed with intracranial meningioma, a tumor that forms in the tissues lining the brain, between May 2006 and April 2011. Participants were from Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Houston or San Francisco Bay areas. The study then gathered 1,350 people in the same age, sex and state as the other group, but not diagnosed with a tumor.
Researchers found that those who were diagnosed with meningiomas were twice as likely as the other group to report having had bitewing images taken when at the dentist. Those who had the x-rays yearly or more were at between 40 – 90 percent higher at risk to be diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The study’s lead author and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut Dr. Elizabeth Claus says, “It’s likely that the exposure association we’re seeing here is past exposure, and past exposure levels were much higher.”
Even though we are now exposed to less radiation than in the past, “The study presents an ideal opportunity in public health to increase awareness regarding the optimal use of dental X-rays, which unlike many risk factors is modifiable,” said Dr. Elizabeth Claus. “As radiation exposure is in many instances avoidable, the need to identify high-risk genetic variants is of great importance to potentially decrease the risk of meningiomas and probably other tumours.”
The American Dental Association said in a statement in response to the study, “The ADA’s long-standing position is that dentists should order dental X-rays for patients only when necessary for diagnosis and treatment. Since 1989, the ADA has published recommendations to help dentists ensure that radiation exposure is as low as reasonably achievable.”
Dr. Alan Lurie, president of the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology warned that patients shouldn’t assume that x-rays taken at the dentist is okay with every visit, “They should ask why are the dentists taking this image and what is the benefit to me.”