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General Health : Drug News Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


CT-scans raise cancer risk
By Ben Wasserman
Dec 3, 2008 - 12:52:48 PM

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Wednesday Dec 3, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- Some people may not be fully convinced that exposure to x-ray increases risk cancer and they may not accept the fact that the U.S. government has recognized x-ray and other ionizing radiations as human carcinogens. Here is another piece of evidence to consider: x-ray based CT-scans increase risk of cancer, according to a new study.

X-ray is probably the most extensively studied carcinogen in human history, but has gained the government recognition only for a few years only.  The medical circle downplays the risk of exposure to medical x-ray, critics said.

The study led by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found as many as 7 percent of patients from a large U.S. hospital system may have been exposed to the dose of radiation that is high enough to increase risk of cancer during their lifetime.  

Many researchers believe that there is no safety threshold for exposure to x-ray meaning that any dose of exposure increases some risk.

The study focused on CT (or computed tomography) scans which are often used to diagnose cancer and previous studies have already suggested that exposure to x-ray through CT scans may increase risk of cancer.

For the study, Dr. Aaron Sodickson and colleagues examined all patients who had a CT scan in 2007 at Brigham and Women's hospital or at the DANA-Farber Cancer Institute and calculated the dose of radiation the patients had received during a period of 22 years.

"We found about 7 percent of our patients did have a cancer risk that increased by 1 percent of what we would expect as a baseline cancer rate," Sodickson was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"If you have a patient and you've cured their cancer, but you keep scanning them over and over to make sure the cancer is still gone, you raise their risk of a second cancer."

CT scan uses 50 to 100 times more radiation than a conventional x-ray. People at young ages are more sensitive to the damage from radiation and they are at higher risk of cancer after they are exposed to the same dose of radiation. The U.S. government (EPA) said that exposure to x-ray at the age of 2 years or younger would be at 7 times higher risk of cancer than those who are not.

Dr. John Gofman, a distinguished nuclear physician who actually conducted research said that 75 percent of breast cancer patients have been exposed to x-ray.  But he acknowledged that x-ray is not the only carcinogen that causes cancer in humans.





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