New research suggests dental X-rays may increase thyroid cancer risk

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New research suggests that repeated dental X-rays can carry a risk of thyroid cancer and meningioma.

A team of researchers based at Brighton and Sussex Medical School found that repeated exposure to dental X-rays contributed to a small increase in the risk of developing thyroid cancer and meningioma, a form of tumour, which develops in the meninges layers of tissue found around the brain and spinal cord.

The latest figures indicate that around 3,500 new cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year, with approximately 1,850 meningioma cases. Both types of cancer have become more prevalent in the UK in recent years. It is thought that screening and advanced monitoring have contributed to an increase in the number of thyroid cancer cases, but researchers were keen to explore other possible explanations.

When dental X-rays are carried out, the thyroid gland and the meninges are exposed to radiation, and both are known to be “highly radiosensitive,” especially during childhood and the teenage years. 

Reviews of studies centred on the impact of dental X-rays suggested that frequent X-rays can elevate the risk of cancer, but the team stressed that more research is required to determine the level of impact of dental X-rays on specific organs and analyse the impact at different ages.

Professor Memon, lead researcher, suggested that the study warrants further investigation, as some patients are subjected to repeat dental X-rays over the course of a prolonged period of time, and it’s important for dentists and other medical professionals to be aware of the potential risks involved.

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