(NaturalNews) A surge in the use of CT scans in the last 25 years has led to millions of patients per year being unnecessarily exposed to dangerous radiation that increases their risk of cancer, according to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"It has been estimated that about 0.4 percent of all cancers in the United States may be attributable to the radiation from CT studies," the authors wrote. Because cancer can take a decade to appear, "this estimate might now be in the range of 1.5 to 2.0 percent" when adjusted for the current level of CT use.
A CT or CAT scan, which stands for computerized axial tomography, is a three-dimensional body scan acquired by means of an exceptionally high X-ray dose. CT scans have become popular because they provide more detail than normal X-ray scans. But according to co-author David Brenner, "The radiation dose from a CT scan is far larger than from a conventional X-ray. It's 50 times to 100 times larger."
According to Brenner and co-author Eric Hall, the number of CT scans performed in the United States each year has climbed from 3 million in 1980 to 62 million in 2006. This has been directly responsible for a doubling in the personal radiation dose experienced by the average U.S. resident.
Based on prior studies, which found that up to one-third of medical tests are unnecessary or could be replaced with less expensive or risky tests, Brenner and Hall estimate that 20 million adults and more than one million children are receiving unnecessary CT scans each year.
Another recent study found that in the last 10 years, the amount of CT radiation that pregnant women are exposed to has doubled.
Brenner and Hall recommended that doctors try to limit the use of CT scans by relying on alternate diagnostic methods such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging whenever possible.