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Thousands of ‘excess’ cancer deaths from CT scans

Posted By admin On March 2, 2010 @ 11:32 am In Uncategorized | No Comments


We tend to trust the doctors when they prescribe diagnostic and therapeutic x-rays, but it’s vital to remember that exposure to ionizing radiation – which underpins nuclear medicine through a variety of x-rays and the internal use of radioactive substances – is a known cause of cancer.

Computed tomography, or CT scans, are especially potent, and proving to be lethal for thousands of North Americans every year. Dr. Rita Redberg, editor of the US-based journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, reported in December that from the CT scans done in just one year – 2007 – there will be 29,000 new cases of cancer and 15,000 excess deaths (1). A third of these projected cancers will occur in people 35 to 54 years old when they received their CT, two-thirds will occur in women and 15 percent will arise from scans done in children or teens.

CT scans give doctors a view inside the body, often eliminating the need for exploratory surgery. But CT scans involve much higher radiation doses than conventional X-rays. A chest CT scan exposes the patient to 300 to 600 times the radiation dose of a chest X-ray, and – largely because of the greater availability of x-ray technology – patients today receive far more radiation than ever before. In the US, the average lifetime dose of diagnostic radiation – excluding therapeutic radiation – has increased sevenfold since 1980, according to The New York Times.

In Canada, there are currently no nationally accepted, evidence-based rules to help hospitals determine which patients need a CT scan. With children especially vulnerable, and with CT scans being increasingly efficient and much more readily used in recent years, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study in February which laid out a set of risk factors that signal a child could have a brain injury (2). By following the guidelines, doctors could help ensure that children who have these risk factors get help quickly – and prevent others from being needlessly exposed to radiation, the study suggests.

Given the danger of CT and other forms of medical radiation such as fluoroscopies, the US Food and Drug Administration recently announced it would take steps for more stringent regulation.

Our advice is that patients themselves need to be aware of the dangers of medical radiation, and be prepared to be their own best advocates.

Article by Liz Armstrong, Past-Chair PCN Board

Source: An Ounce Newsletter (March 2010)


(1) Redberg RF, MD, MSc
Cancer Risks and Radiation Exposure From Computed Tomographic Scans: How Can We Be Sure That the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?
Vol. 169 No. 22, Dec 14/28, 2009 Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(22):2049-2050. 2009 http://archinte.ama-assn.org/content/vol169/issue22/index.dtl [1]

(2) Osmond MH, et al CATCH: a clinical decision rule for the use of computed tomography in children with minor head injury
CMAJ published February 8, 2010 as doi:10.1503/cmaj.091421 [PDF]
http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.091421v1 [2]
Vol. 169 No. 22, Dec 14/28

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URL to article: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/thousands-of-excess-cancer-deaths-from-ct-scans/

URLs in this post:

[1] http://archinte.ama-assn.org/content/vol169/issue22/index.dtl: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/content/vol169/issue22/index.dtl

[2] http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.091421v1: http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.091421v1

[3] Health Canada’s Ingredient Hotlist: Why are carcinogens allowed in cosmetics?: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/health-canadas-ingredient-hotlist-why-are-carcinogens-allowed-in-cosmetics

[4] Incineration: Burning Issues – 2009 in Review: http://www.preventcancernow.caincineration-burning-issues-2009-in-review

[5] Herbs for Cancer Prevention: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/herbs-for-cancer-prevention

[6] Management of BPA: the latest government proposal: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/management-of-bpa-the-latest-government-proposal

[7] The Trillium Foundation Supports Prevention Presentation: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/the-trillium-foundation-supports-prevention-presentation

[8] Telling Our Story: Why prevention? We do it for love!: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/telling-our-story-why-prevention-we-do-it-for-love

[9] What’s New!: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/whats-new

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