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Frequent dental x-rays linked to brain tumor risk

Tuesday April 10, 2012
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Researchers have found a correlation between past frequent dental x-rays and an increased risk of developing meningioma.

The most common primary brain tumor in the United States, meningioma accounts for about 33% of all such cases. Previous studies consistently have identified exposure to ionizing radiation as an environmental risk factor for meningioma.

"This research suggests that although dental x-rays are an important tool in maintaining good oral health, efforts to moderate exposure to this form of imaging may be of benefit to some patients," Elizabeth Claus, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said in a news release.

Claus and colleagues studied data from 1,433 patients diagnosed with meningioma between ages 20 and 79 from May 2006 to April 2011, and compared the information to a control group of 1,350 participants with similar characteristics. They found patients with meningioma were twice as likely to report having a specific type of dental x-ray called a bitewing exam, and that those who reported having the exams yearly or more often were 1.4 to 1.9 times more likely to develop a meningioma when compared to the control group.

Additionally, researchers found an even greater increased risk of meningioma in patients who reported having a panorex x-ray exam. Those who reported having the exam before age 10 were 4.9 times more likely to develop a meningioma compared to controls. Those who reported having the exam yearly or more often were nearly three times as likely to develop the tumor when compared to the control group.

"It is important to note that the dental x-rays performed today use a much lower dose of radiation than in the past," Claus said.

Researchers with Duke University, the University of California, San Francisco, and Baylor College of Medicine collaborated on the study, which appeared April 10 on the website of the journal Cancer. To read it, visit http://bit.ly/Hyamze.

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