A comparison of out-of-field dose and its constituent components for intensity-modulated radiation therapy versus conformal radiation therapy: Implications for carcinogenesis

Jeremy D. Ruben, Craig M. Lancaster, Phillip Jones, Ryan L. Smith

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Purpose: To investigate differences in scatter and leakage between 6-MV intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3DCRT); to describe the relative contributions of internal patient scatter, collimator scatter, and head leakage; and to discuss implications for second cancer induction. Methods and Materials: Dose was measured at increasing distances from the field edge in a water bath with a sloping wall (1) under full scatter conditions, (2) with the field edge abutting but outside the bath to prevent internal (water) scatter, and (3) with the beam aperture plugged to reflect leakage only. Results: Internal patient scatter from IMRT is 11% lower than 3DCRT, but collimator scatter and head leakage are five and three times higher, respectively. Ultimately, total scattered dose is 80% higher with IMRT; however this difference is small in absolute terms, being 0.14% of prescribed dose. Secondary dose from 3DCRT is mostly due to internal patient scatter, which contributes 70% of the total and predominates until 25 cm from the field edge. For IMRT, however, machine scatter/leakage is the dominant source, contributing 65% of the secondary dose. Internal scatter predominates for just the first 10 cm from field edge, collimator scatter for the next 10 cm, and head leakage thereafter. Conclusions: Out-of-field dose is 80% higher with IMRT, but differences are tiny in absolute terms. Reductions in internal patient scatter with IMRT are outweighed by increased machine scatter and leakage, at least for small fields. Reductions from IMRT in dose to tissues within the portals and in internal scatter, which predominates close to the field edge, means that calculations based solely on dose to distant tissues may overestimate carcinogenic risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1458-1464
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • 3D conformal radiation therapy
  • IMRT
  • leakage
  • scatter
  • second cancer risk

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