A lot of my subscribers will be too young to remember the mass chest X-ray days of the 50s and 60s, when a truck would turn up at the office or school with mobile equipment and take x-rays of everyone. Screening for TB and lung cancer. Good idea, what?

Well, no. What actually happened was that these x-ray screening programs CAUSED more cancers than they “detected”. Those who had been screened had a far higher rate of cancers; so much so that mass x-ray screening was dropped.

The same thing has happened with mammograms but the entrenched doctors of the cancer industry are not letting on. The truth is already out there, showing mammograms cause more than they “detect”, but they won’t admit it and stop killing women for profit.

Now the latest shock: CAT scans are pretty dangerous and nobody has been paying enough attention. Not until Rebecca Smith-Bindman MD did some poking around. She noticed that radiation doses from CT scans are often high and vary widely, and excessively high doses may contribute substantially to future cancers. Her findings are published in a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

CT scans are noninvasive medical tests that combine special X-ray equipment and computers to produce detailed cross sectional images of the body. The number of CT scans performed has exploded over the last three decades, growing from about 3 million yearly in 1980 to about 70 million in 2007.

The new research comes in the wake of the discovery earlier this year that more than 200 stroke patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles had received more than eight times the necessary radiation dose when undergoing CT scans. What was even stranger was the very large variation in dose for what was supposed to be the same procedure. Even the FDA is concerned (polite cough… A-hem)

In Smith-Bindman’s study, researchers evaluated radiation doses given to 1,119 patients getting CT scans and found that the differences in radiation exposure were dramatic: much higher than needed but also very variable. Most dramatic, she says, was the dose and the dose range for a multiphase abdomen and pelvic series. While the median dose was 31, the range was from 6 to 90. That’s more than a 10-fold difference.

Her team even went on to assess the lifetime cancer risk linked to the CT scan. They estimated that one in 270 women and one in 600 men who got a CT coronary angiogram at age 40 would develop cancer from that scan. That’s very high in my book.

The message from Smith-Bindman’s timely research is the need for doctors and patients to become more aware of the risks and she also emphasizes the need for more oversight of the scans. This issue pinpoints an old loop of logic – because a lot of peoople are doing it, doesn’t suddenly make it safe or effective. Popular isn’t the same as good, in any degree.

Make sure you are not lulled and just believe this new “magic eye” is OK, because all hospitals are doing it. Make the doctor justify the need or consider refusing and making them work for their diagnosis.

[Just to ram this home, another study by investigators at the National Cancer Institute (USA), also estimated the risk of cancer attributable to CT scans. They concluded that 29,000 future cancers could be related to the 70 million CT scans that were performed in the U.S. in 2007. This includes an estimated 14,000 cases resulting from scans of the abdomen and pelvis; 4,100 from chest scans; 4,000 from head scans; and 2,700 from CT angiograms. One-third of these projected cancer cases would occur following scans performed on people ages 35 to 54. Two-thirds of the cancers would be in women.

NEED I SAY THIS? These may be US statistics but the risks will be the same, whatever territory you live in!]