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Cancer study finds efforts to protect radiologists ‘seem to have paid off’

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Bethesda, MD – A study of radiologists shows that those who finished medical school after 1940 do not have a higher risk of radiation-related death, according to researchers from the National Cancer Institute.

Using data from the Physician Masterfile, researchers examined the death rates and incidences of cancer among nearly 44,000 radiologists, and compared it to data for 65,000 psychiatrists (who were unlikely to be exposed to occupational radiation). All participants graduated medical school between 1916 and 2006.

Researchers determined that radiologists who graduated prior to 1940 had higher death rates from conditions related to radiation exposure, including acute myeloid leukemia, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They also had an increased risk of cerebrovascular disease. However, radiologists who graduated after 1940 showed no indication of higher rate of death from radiation-related causes, and they had a lower death rate overall.

Researchers concluded that advancements in protection, surveillance and equipment safety have played a role. “Most of the findings of increased risk were in the earlier radiologists. We do feel there is evidence that decreases in dose in the United States and other countries seem to have paid off, reducing risks in recent graduates,” Dr. Martha Linet, study co-author and senior investigator at the NCI Radiation Epidemiology Branch, said in a press release.

The study was published July 19 in the journal Radiology.

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