Headline in New York Times for Jan. 30: "We Are Giving Ourselves Cancer." Written by two radiologists, the op-ed piece describes how medical imaging, and particularly CT scans, are dosing patients with levels of radiation that are causing tens of thousands of excess cancer cases and deaths.
"Of course," the article states, "early diagnosis thanks to medical imaging can be lifesaving. But there is distressingly little evidence of better health outcomes associated with the current high rate of scans."
CT scans have become routine, with one in ten Americans now undergoing the procedure every year. Trouble is, each of these scans blasts a patient with 100 to 1,000 times more radiation than a conventional X-ray would use, the radiologists report, and that's causing a steep rise in cancer cases and deaths:
(It is our understanding that while pregnant with him, Ivan Illich's mother was given an X-ray.)
"While it is difficult to know how many cancers will result from medical imaging, a 2009 study from the National Cancer Institute estimates that CT scans conducted in 2007 will cause a projected 29,000 excess cancer cases and 14,500 excess deaths over the lifetime of those exposed. Given the many scans performed over the last several years, a reasonable estimate of excess lifetime cancers would be in the hundreds of thousands. According to our calculations, unless we change our current practices, 3 percent to 5 percent of all future cancers may result from exposure to medical imaging."