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Dental x-rays may increase cancer risk

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The risk of contracting cancer could be increased due to repeated exposed to dental x-rays, a new study has found.

Scientists in Cambridge, Brighton and Kuwait said that further investigation into dental radiography is required after they found that the risk of a person developing thyroid cancer increases with the number of dental x-rays they have had.

Dental radiography was previously thought to be absolutely safe, which has led many patients to be exposed to low levels of radiation as part of a routine check-up, but dental x-rays of patients should now only be used when there is a specific clinical need, according to the scientists.

The thyroid gland situated in the neck is sensitive to ionising radiation, particularly among children, and dental radiography is often overlooked as a potential hazard to the gland, the team said.

About 1,900 new cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed each year in Britain and the incidence rates more than doubled between 1975 and 2006.

Researchers, led by Dr Anjum Memon, of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said the increasing use of sensitive diagnostic techniques is not believed to account for all of the rise and that other causes also warrant investigation.

The research team, whose findings have been published in Acta Oncologica, 2010; 49:447-453, called for further studies using dental x-ray records.

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