February 6, 2018
According to a study published in the February issue of Radiology and reported in the media, radiographers and other imaging specialists who have performed at least one nuclear medicine exam, either diagnostic or therapeutic, have a higher risk of developing cataracts than radiologic technologists who have not. The study was conducted by researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, and University of Minnesota.
SNMMI and the SNMMI Technologist Section (SNMMI-TS) place the highest importance on the safety of nuclear medicine professionals, so this study of course raises concerns; however, the researchers conclude their article by noting that their findings should be interpreted with caution, as procedure-specific exposures were not taken into account, and that further research is necessary to confirm and quantify this relationship.
The society continues to monitor this issue, as well as any other potential job-related health risks related specifically to nuclear medicine professionals. The society supports further research in this area and looks forward to more specific research looking at full-time nuclear medicine technologists and professionals and any health effects associated with possible occupational hazards. At this time, this current research appears to be too ambiguous to come to a full conclusion that there is a true association of cataract development as an occupational hazard for nuclear medicine professionals.