People who received frequent dental x-rays in the past have an increased risk of developing a meningioma, the most commonly diagnosed primary brain tumor, according to a recent study published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
Researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, studied information from 1,433 patients who were diagnosed with the disease between the ages of 20-79 years. The researchers also studied information from a control group of 1,350 individuals who had similar characteristics, but who had not been diagnosed with a meningioma.
Individuals who reported receiving bitewing exams, (which uses an x-ray film held in place by a tab between the teeth), on a yearly or more frequent basis were 1.4 to 1.9 times as likely to develop meningioma as controls. In addition to bitewing exams, researchers found an increased risk of meningioma was also linked with panorex exams (which are taken outside of the mouth and show all of the teeth on one film) taken at a young age or on a yearly or more frequent basis. Individuals who reported receiving these exams when they were younger than 10 years old had a 4.9 times increased risk of developing a meningioma. Those who reported receiving them on a yearly or more frequent basis were 2.7 to 3.0 times (depending on age) as likely to develop meningioma as controls.
Overall, this study provides strong evidence that routine dental x-rays are associated with an increased risk of meningiomas. This should come as no great surprise given the connection between radiation and meningioma development that has been established in various other contexts. However, the chance of these tumors arising in patients who were x-rayed yearly was still low. Nonetheless, dentists and patients should strongly consider obtaining x-rays less often than yearly unless symptoms suggest the need for imaging.