|CT SCANS RAISE CANCER RISK|
November 29 2007 New England Journal of Medicine.
This new report warns that millions of Americans, especially children, are needlessly getting dangerous radiation from CT scans that raise the risk of cancer and are increasingly used to diagnose medical problems.
According to the authors of the report, as many as 2 percent of all future cancers in the United States might be due to radiation from CT scans.
Experts agree with the need to curb these tests particularly in children, who are more susceptible to radiation and more likely to develop cancer from it.
Every single CT, or computed tomography, scan to an individual slightly increases the risk of cancer. The average American's total radiation exposure has nearly doubled since 1980, largely because of CT scans. Medical radiation now accounts for more than 50% of the population's total exposure; it used to be just 17%, and the top source was the normal background rate in the environment, from things like radon in soil and cosmic energy from the sun.
A previous study by the same scientists in 2001 led the Food and Drug Administration to recommend ways to limit scans and risks in children. But CT use has continued to soar. About 62 million scans were done in the United States in 2006, up from 3 million in 1980. More than 4 million were in children.
As previous studies suggest that a third of all diagnostic tests are unnecessary, that means that more than 20 million adults and about 1.3 million children getting CT scans are needlessly being put at risk.
CT scans became popular because they offer a quick, relatively cheap and painless way to get detailed 3 dimensional pictures of the inside of the body. But they put out a lot of radiation. A CT scan of the chest involves 10 to 15 millisieverts (unit of dose). The dose depends on the type of machine and the person - obese people require more radiation than slim ones - and the risk accumulates over a lifetime.
Whole-body CT scans are often peddled as peace of mind to people who are well.
Many CT centers also are set up for adults and rarely image children, who need adjustments to limit dose and radiation risk.
In a similar vein Dr. John Gofman wrote and lectured for years about the inherent dangers of radiation exposure from other medical diagnostics like mammograms. His work was criticized but his numbers were never disproved. Hopefully this current report will be better received.
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