American Thyroid Association (ATA) Issues Policy Statement on Minimizing Radiation Exposure from Medical, Dental Diagnostics

Falls Church, Virginia. June 13, 2012 – The American Thyroid Association today released a policy statement aiming to inform the public and healthcare practitioners about how to minimize risks to the thyroid gland associated with radiation exposure from diagnostic medical and dental radiography. Radiation exposure to the thyroid among both children and adults is currently the strongest known risk factor for thyroid cancer.

With more than 56,000 cases of thyroid cancer likely to be diagnosed in the United States in 2012 alone, the incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing faster than any other cancer. Although it is unlikely that radiation exposure is the predominant contributor to this trend, an increase in the use diagnostic x-rays, particularly computed tomography, is widespread and necessitates the protection of the thyroid gland where possible to diminish thyroid cancer risk.

“Increased radiation exposure among both children and adults is of primary concern to the ATA because the thyroid gland is among the most susceptible sites of radiation-induced cancer,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pearce, Board of Directors of the American Thyroid Association. “This policy statement aims to reduce thyroid exposure to medical radiation as a means to reduce the risk of developing cancer of the thyroid gland.”

The first section of the ATA’s policy statement is written for a general audience, while the second section reviews the medical literature supporting the policy. The ATA’s chief conclusions and recommendations are as follows:

  1. The risk of thyroid cancer arising from radiation exposure is very strongly dependent on age at exposure. It is only recently that a thyroid cancer risk for exposure after age 15 has been observed. This risk is low, but not absent.
  2. For the purposes of public health planning, most experts and organizations assume that the risks for cancer, including thyroid cancer, are reduced proportionately with the dose.
  3. The necessity of all diagnostic x-rays should be evaluated before they are performed. This must include the potential risks as well as the potential benefits to the patient. This must also include a consideration of the alternative methods for obtaining the same or related clinical information.
  4. Thyroid-protective collars should be used for all dental x-rays when they do not interfere with the examination. Thyroid-protective collars are not needed for screening mammograms.
  5. The patient or the patient’s decision maker should be made aware of the potential risks and benefits of radiation in a manner that is understandable to them.
  6. Clinicians should be adequately informed about the potential risks of radiation and the general principles of radiation dosimetry, especially as they relate to children and to the thyroid.

To access the statement in its entirety, visit www.thyroid.org.

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About the American Thyroid Association

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the leading worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement, understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer. ATA is an international individual membership organization with over 1,600 members from 43 countries around the world. Celebrating its 89th anniversary, ATA delivers its mission through several key endeavors: the publication of highly regarded monthly journals, THYROID, Clinical Thyroidology and Clinical Thyroidology for Patients; annual scientific meetings; biennial clinical and research symposia; research grant programs for young investigators, support of online professional, public and patient educational programs; and the development of guidelines for clinical management of thyroid disease. Visit www.thyroid.org for more information.