NEW YORK (CBS Atlanta) – A radiation-free way to detect cancer may be on the horizon, reports CNet.

For years, doctors have been using PET and CT scans to search for cancer in the body. But those machines also expose the patient to radiation that can be harmful – and could even lead to cancers later in life.

The risk is especially great for kids, whose cells are rapidly growing and dividing.

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, the Stanford School of Medicine, and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital have been working on an alternative.

MRIs combined with a special dye, an iron supplement that helps medical technicians identify different organs have been found to be as effective at detecting cancers. And since they operate using radio waves, there is no risk of radiation exposure.

So far the approach has found 158 tumors in 22 8- to 33-year-olds, compared with 163 found using the traditional PET and CT scan combo.

It’s a small sample size, but the researchers say the results are promising, and more hospitals are slated to try the new technique.

The report is published in the The Lancet Oncology.

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