Brussels, 6 August 2010
Commission addresses key issues in nuclear medicine, radiology and radiotherapy
The Commission adopted today a Communication to the European Parliament and to the Council on medical applications of ionizing radiation1. It proposes a way forward to resolve the urgent issue of shortage of supply of radioisotopes for nuclear medicine. The Communication also identifies key issues to improve radiation protection of patients and medical staff, to avoid a rise in population exposure associated with the technological advances in X-ray computed tomography imaging (CT) and an increase of accidental or unintended exposures in radiotherapy. This Communication was jointly proposed by Günther Oettinger, Commissioner responsible for Energy, and by John Dalli, Commissioner responsible for Health and Consumer Policy.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: "Nuclear medicine is essential for diagnosis and treatment of serious diseases like cancer, cardiovascular and brain diseases. At the same time, the overall population exposure to ionizing radiation due to medical procedures overwhelms any other man-made exposure."
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli added that: "the shortage of radio-isotopes needed for medical procedures as well as the need to improve patient and health professionals protection against accidental or unintended exposures in radio therapy, are important objectives of public health policy.
All over the world, the number of X-ray examinations is around 4 billion per year. In Europe, around 9 million patients are treated each year with radioisotopes. It is the Commission's responsibility to help securing the availability of this technology to the benefit of human health. Today, the most widely used diagnostic radioisotope, Technetium-99m, is short in supply because it relies on an unsustainable low number of production reactors. Within the overall nuclear energy policy of the European Commission it is of crucial importance to provide incentives for further research reactors to contribute to its production and in the long term for new research reactors to be built for this purpose.
The Communication proposes a long-term perspective on the medical application of ionizing radiation in the Union to stimulate discussions on the necessary actions, resources and distribution of responsibilities.
The following actions are proposed:
The following documents:
are available on the website:
Ionizing radiation comprises particles and high energy electromagnetic radiation that are capable of disrupting the structure of atoms or molecules and change the structure of the living cells.