Organ radiation dose from a CT scan, calculated by CT dosimetry software, can be combined with cancer risk data to estimate cancer incidence resulting from CT exposure. We aim to determine to what extent the use of improved anatomical representation of the adult human body "phantom" in CT dosimetry software impacts estimates of radiation dose and cancer incidence, to inform comparison of past and future research.
We collected 20 adult cases for each of three CT protocols (abdomen/pelvis, chest and head) from each of five public hospitals (random sample) (January-April inclusive 2010) and three private clinics (self-report). Organ equivalent and effective dose were calculated using both ImPACT (mathematical phantom) and NCICT (voxelised phantom) software. Bland Altman plots demonstrate agreement and Passing-Bablok regression reports systematic, proportional or random differences between results. We modelled the estimated lifetime attributable risk of cancer from a single exposure for each protocol, using age-sex specific risk-coefficients from the Biologic Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII report.
For the majority of organs used in epidemiological studies of cancer incidence, the NCICT software (voxelised) provided higher dose estimates. Across the lifespan NCICT resulted in cancer estimates 2.9%-6.6% and 14.8%-16.3% higher in males and females (abdomen/pelvis) and 7.6%-19.7% and 12.9%-26.5% higher in males and females respectively (chest protocol). For the head protocol overall cancer estimates were lower for NCICT, but with greatest disparity, >30% at times.
When the results of previous studies estimating CT dose and cancer incidence are compared to more recent, or future, studies the dosimetry software must be considered. Any change in radiation dose or cancer risk may be attributable to the software and phantom used, rather than or in addition to changes in scanning practice. Studies using dosimetry software to estimate radiation dose should describe software comprehensively to facilitate comparison with past and future research.