Radiologic technologists in the United States who perform nuclear medicine (NM) procedures have an increased risk of developing cataracts, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.
Researchers from France and the U.S. performed a prospective study to estimate the risk for a cohort of NM radiologic technologists for developing cataracts, based on their work history and radiation protection practices.
A total of 42,545 radiologic technologists completed questionnaires in the years 2003-2005 and again in 2012-2013, regarding their work and cataract histories. The technologists were followed from the date they first completed the survey to the date when they completed the second survey or they were diagnosed with cataracts. The mean follow-up was 7.5 years.
The results showed reports of 7,137 cataracts, with a significant increased risk of cataract among workers who performed an NM procedure at least once, as opposed to never. The risks of cataract were increased in the group who had performed a diagnostic NM procedure. The time periods during which the procedures were performed affected the risk levels as well. The risks were higher for those who had first performed diagnostic NM procedures in the 1980s to early 2000s, as well as and those who had performed therapeutic NM procedures in the 1970s and in the 1980s to early 2000s. “With the exception of a significantly increased risk associated with performing therapeutic NM procedures without shielding the radiation source in the 1980s,” the authors wrote, “analyses revealed no association between cataract risk and specific radiation protection technique used.”
The researchers concluded that there is an increased risk of cataract among U.S. radiologic technologists who had performed an NM procedure at least once, and the association should be examined in future studies incorporating estimated lens doses.