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Originally published April 24 2009

Radiation Exposure of Americans Rises 600 Percent in 29 Years Thanks to Medical Imaging Scans

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The growing popularity of medical diagnostic scans has contributed to the sevenfold increase in average yearly radiation dosage experienced by U.S. residents since 1980, according to a report published by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP).

While the NCRP report looked at radiation exposure from all sources, it found that the greatest increase in exposure came from medical sources, such as CT scans. These scans accounted for a full 49 percent of medical radiation exposure and 24 percent of total radiation exposure for the U.S. population.

Researchers worry that the rise in medical radiation exposure may translate into significantly more cancer cases. Studies conducted on the survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki found that radiation levels equivalent to those from a mere two to three CT scans were enough to significantly increase a survivor's cancer risk.

"Radiation exposure from these scans is not inconsequential and can lead to later cancers," said Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society. "This doesn't mean people shouldn't get CT scans, but it does mean we need to be very careful in how we use these technologies in the future."

CT scans comprise approximately 17 percent of all medical procedures, but their popularity has been growing in recent years, with 72 million performed in 2006.

"It's almost routine to the point where my colleague in an emergency room tells me when a patient comes in complaining of something, instead of doing the standard physical to diagnose them they immediately send them for a CT scan," Lichtenfeld said.

Among the reasons cited for this practice are physicians wanting to order every possible test to protect themselves from litigation; patients demanding specific tests from their doctors; the lack of standardized guidelines for use of the scans; and a financial motive for doctors who perform the scans in-house.

Between 1998 and 2005, the number of CT scans ordered by doctors with a financial stake in the tests grew at three times the rate of the number ordered by doctors without a financial interest.

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