Spotlight: NCRP meeting to focus on low dose-rate radiation effects

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Societies are responding to radiation exposure concerns with CT scans. Source: Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula  

The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) will hold its annual meeting from April 14-15 in Bethesda, Md., to bring the debate over low-dose radiation effects into the perspective of currently available data and models of the biological responses and human health impacts of exposure.

An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in November 2007 which stated that CT scans could be responsible for as much as 2 percent of all cancers in the United States has sparked debate in the industry due to concerns for radiation exposure and increased cancer risk, as well as apprehension about frightening patients away from the invaluable tests.

David A. Schauer, PhD, ScD, CHP, executive director of NCRP, said that the topic of the 2008 meeting, however, was approved by the board of directors at a September 2006 meeting.

“Regarding the focus of the NEJM article by Brenner and Hall,” he told Health Imaging News, “it is worth noting that NCRP established a scientific committee to review all current sources of data and prepare a report on the magnitude of all sources of radiation exposure to the U.S. population.” Schauer said that the committee was charged with examining the changes that have occurred over the last 25 years.

Schauer said that the preliminary estimates of the NCRP committee are that in 2006, the per capita dose from medical exposure (not including dental or radiotherapy) had increased almost 600 percent to about 3 mSv and the collective dose had increased to more than 700 percent to about 880,000 person-Sv.

“The largest contributions and increases have come primarily from CT and nuclear medicine,” Schauer said. “CT scans have accounted for 17 percent (67 million) of the total number of procedures (excluding dental) and more than half of the total collective dose.”

The purpose of the annual meeting, said Schauer is to provide a scientific filter and forum on the perspectives of research scientists, public health officials, and regulatory agencies regarding low-dose radiation effects to affect what becomes law on the matter. “It really is a way to give experts a forum for their research and results for discussion,” he said.

Schauer said that the recently launched Image Gently campaign, sponsored in part by the ACR, was a direct result of the discussions at the 2007 annual meeting. The Image Gently campaign’s purpose is to educate providers on appropriate radiation does for children.