Prior x-rays could lead to young-onset prostate cancer

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Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England have shown an association between certain past diagnostic radiation procedures and an increased risk of young-onset prostate cancer, according to a study published online in the May issue of British Journal of Cancer.

The study, led by Kenneth Muir, from the division of epidemiology and public health at the university, in association with Rosalind Eeles, MD, at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, examined the relationship between low dose ionizing radiation from diagnostic procedures and the risk of prostate cancer.

According to the study, men who had a hip or pelvic x-ray or barium enema 10 years previously were two and a half times more likely to develop prostate cancer than the general population. The link appeared to be stronger in men who had a family history of the disease, according to Muir and Eeles.

"Although these results show some increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer in men who had previously had certain radiological medical tests we want to reassure men that the absolute risks are small and there is no proof that the radiological tests actually caused any of the cancers,” Muir said.

Four hundred and thirty one men diagnosed with the disease before the age of 60 took part in the study.

The exposure to radiation was part of normal medical procedures which were performed five, 10 or 20 years before diagnosis. Procedures included hip and leg x-rays, for example taken after an accident, and barium meals and enemas which are used to diagnose problems with the digestive system.

Muir and Eeles wrote that at this stage, the evidence linking diagnostic radiation procedures and prostate cancer is still weak and suggested that further investigation into the link should be undertaken.

The Prostate Cancer Research Foundation funded the study, which is part of the UK Genetic Prostate Cancer Study.