New study shows radiation exposure in middle age causes cancer

Friday, December 10, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: radiation exposure, cancer, health news

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(NaturalNews) Here's a riddle with a dangerous answer: what do routine dental x-rays, mammograms, CT scans and body scanners at the airport have in common? They expose your body to radiation, a form of energy known to raise the risk of cancer. Despite the fact that ionizing radiation is known to trigger mutations and other genetic damage and cause normal cells to become malignant, mainstream medicine has long discounted a serious risk from the accumulated radiation exposure from these tests -- especially for middle-aged folks.

But a new study just published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute comes to another, sobering conclusion. It turns out that, counter to conventional medical thinking, cancer risk after radiation exposure in middle-age increases the risk of cancerous tumors.

This news might not come as a surprise to regular readers of NaturalNews. After all, we've reported how CT scans can dramatically increase the risk of malignancies (http://www.naturalnews.com/026001_CT_scans_c...) and how mammograms may actually induce breast cancer in some women (http://www.naturalnews.com/025560_cancer_brs...). In addition, Mike Adams has covered the potential DNA damage caused by airport whole body scanners (http://www.naturalnews.com/027913_full-body_...). But for most U.S. physicians, the idea that middle-aged people could be at any significant risk from routine tests involving x-rays flatly goes against what they were taught in medical school.

Specifically, radiation exposure is supposedly mostly a danger to children and teens because their cells are more sensitive than older people -- that places youngsters at the greatest risk for developing radiation-induced cancer. But the new research by Columbia University scientists indicates the assumption that adults, especially as they reach middle-age, are not very susceptible to the cancer-causing dangers of radiation is simply wrong.

David J. Brenner, Ph.D., and colleagues re-analyzed data about Japanese atomic bomb survivors. They looked at two different pathways through which radiation exposure can eventually lead to cancer -- by the initiation of gene mutations and by radiation induced promotion, or expansion, of the number of existing pre-malignant cells in the body.

The researchers noted in their study that the initiation effect is more likely to trigger cancer in children exposed to radiation than adults. That's because cells initiated at an early age have a longer time available to expand in number and progress on their path to becoming malignant. On the other hand, the promotion effect appears to be a dangerous consequence of radiation exposures in the middle-age years -- because the adult body already contains large numbers of pre-malignant cells and the radiation exposure causes these cells to increase, with potentially deadly consequences.

The Columbia research team came up with a model based on these biological effects and applied this model to the records about cancers in Japanese atomic bomb survivors. When they investigated the cancer risk patterns associated with age at radiation exposure observed in these survivors, the facts and figures matched what their model had predicted. Next, they looked at statistics on Americans between the ages of 30 and 60 and, once again, their model based on the biological effects of accumulated radiation exposure was consistent with the risk of cancer in this age group.

Bottom line: cancer risk increases after exposure to radiation in middle-age. These findings are particularly worrisome because x-ray diagnostic tests are predominantly performed on middle-aged adults and many of these tests, like mammograms, are pushed as necessary with virtually no warnings at all concerning the radiation exposure involved.

In an editorial accompanying the study, John D. Boice, Sc.D., of the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Maryland, stated the new biology-based model that zeros in on the cancer risk and radiation link "raises provocative hypotheses and conclusions that, although preliminary, draw attention to the continued importance of low-dose radiation exposures in our society."

So what can you do to avoid radiation exposure? For starters, refuse "routine" x-rays and other diagnostic tests involving radiation that are not medically justified -- and make sure you know your rights for insisting on a "pat down" instead of a full body scan the next time you fly (http://www.naturalnews.com/030100_naked_body...).

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