Higher Cancer Rate in Interventional Radiologic Technologists

April 13, 2016
Diagnostic Imaging Staff

Interventional radiologic technologists appear to have a higher rate of developing certain types of cancers.

Technologists who perform fluoroscopically-guided interventional procedures appear to have elevated risks of brain cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma, according to a study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, MD, Hirosoft International in Eureka, CA, Information Management Systems, Inc. in Calverton, MD, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and the Food and Drug Administration, in Silver Spring, MD, undertook a nationwide prospective cohort study to examine the risks of cancer incidence and mortality among radiation technologists who performed or assisted with fluoroscopically-guided interventional procedures.

A total of 90,957 radiologic technologists responded to the survey, which was made available from 1994 to 1998. The survey collected information on whether the technologists had ever worked with fluoroscopically-guided interventional procedures. This was followed through completion of a subsequent cohort survey during 2003 to 2005 to determine cancer incidence or December 31, 2008, for cancer mortality.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"47667","attributes":{"alt":"radiation","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_480520206017","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"5637","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 160px; width: 170px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©Preecha TH/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

The results showed that there was a two-fold increased risk of brain cancer mortality and modest elevations in incidence of melanoma and in breast cancer incidence, but not mortality, among technologists who performed fluoroscopically-guided interventional procedures compared with those who never performed these procedures.

There was also a small suggestive increase in incidence of all cancers combined, excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers, however the mortality from all cancers combined, excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers, was not elevated in this group. “We similarly observed no elevated risk of cancers of the thyroid, skin other than melanoma, prostate, lung, or colon and rectum or of leukemia that was not chronic lymphocytic leukemia among workers who performed fluoroscopically guided interventional procedures,” the authors wrote.

The researchers concluded that more study needs to be done to confirm their findings. The exposure to low-dose radiation is one possible explanation for the increase in cancer rates among technologists who perform or assist with these procedures, however, the increase could also be due to chance or unmeasured confounding by nonradiation risk factors, they noted.