Do Dental X-Rays Cause Brain Cancer? | Delmarva Dental Services

Do Dental X-Rays Cause Brain Cancer?

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Dr. Elizabeth B. Claus, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, led a study published in a journal entitled “Cancer” (April 2012) suggesting an association between mouth X-rays and tumors called meningiomas.The tumors, which take their name because they arise in the meninges, the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, account for about a third of brain tumors detected in the United States. Although they’re most often benign and slow-growing, they can cause disability by exerting pressure on the brain. Claus and her research colleagues reviewed histories of dental X-rays among 1,433 patients diagnosed with meningiomas between the ages of 20 and 79 in 2006-2011 and compared them with dental X-ray histories of healthy subjects matched for age, gender and geography. All were asked to recall from memory all dental X-rays they’d ever received. What the Yale study found was that people who developed the tumors were more than twice as likely as those in the control group to report having received bitewing x-rays at least yearly. The study’s authors conclusion states;
“Exposure to some dental x-rays performed in the past, when radiation exposure was greater than in the current era, appears to be associated with an increased risk of intracranial meningioma. As with all sources of artificial ionizing radiation, considered use of this modifiable risk factor may be of benefit to patients” Cancer 2012;. © 2012 American Cancer Society.
The study relied on the subjects’ memory of how many x-rays they had many years ago and this type of self reporting data is usually inaccurate. The study does not prove that dental x-rays cause these tumors; much more research would be needed to determine that. And experts say the finding does not change the recommendation to have x-rays only when necessary. Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society said, “We need more data before we can even begin to state there is a relationship between dental x-rays and these tumors. Until that research is done, the best advice we can give people is to get dental x-rays when they are necessary and only when they are necessary.” Delmarva Dental Services uses digital x-rays which are ¼ the dose of the radiation dose in this study. (See “X-ray Exposure”) After reviewing the new research, the American Dental Association issued a statement reiterating its longstanding position that dentists should order dental X-rays “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,” the ADA said in the statement, released to coincide with the online publication of the new study in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society. The ADA currently recommends X-rays every 1-2 years for healthy children and every 2-3 years for healthy adults.