A recent study published in the journal Cancer has shown that individuals who received frequent dental x-rays in the past have an increased risk of developing a benign brain tumor called meningioma.
The link between dental x-rays and brain tumors was studied by collecting and analyzing information from 1,433 patients who were diagnosed with meningioma between the ages of 20 and 79 years. A control group of 1,350 individuals who had similar characteristics but had not been diagnosed with the brain tumor were also studied.
Over a lifetime, patients with the meningioma brain tumor were more than twice as likely to report having ever had a bitewing exam where an x-ray film is held in place between the teeth. Those who had received bitewing x-rays on a yearly or more frequent basis were 1.4 to 1.9 times more likely to develop the brain tumor than controls.
An even greater risk of meningioma brain tumor was linked with panorex exams. Panorex are dental x-rays that are taken from outside the mouth and show all the teeth in one picture. Especially if the panorex dental x-rays were taken at a young age or on a yearly or more frequent basis. Those who had received these dental x-rays when they were younger than 10 years old had a 4.9 times increased risk of developing meningioma. Those who had received them on a yearly or more frequent basis were 2.7 to 3.0 times as likely to develop meningioma as controls depending on their age.
It should be noted that meningioma is not a cancerous tumor and that techniques used for dental x-rays today do not expose patients to as much radiation as before. The study findings suggest though, that dental x-rays do affect the body and that they should only be performed when necessary for diagnostic purposes.
Source: Elizabeth B. Claus MD et al.: “Dental x-rays and risk of meningioma”, Cancer, published online 10 Apr 2012, DOI: 10.1002/cncr.26625