today receive far more medical radiation than ever before. The average
lifetime dose of diagnostic radiation has increased sevenfold since
1980, and more than half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy.
Often, patients know little about the
harm that can result when safety rules are violated and ever more powerful
and technologically complex machines go awry.
The complexity of medical radiation technology
has created new avenues for error—through software flaws, faulty
programming, poor safety procedures or inadequate staffing and training.
When those errors occur, they can be
Regulators and researchers can only guess
how often radiotherapy accidents occur. Accidents are chronically underreported,
and some states do not require that they be reported at all.
Last year a Philadelphia hospital gave
the wrong radiation dose to more than 90 patients with prostate cancer—and
then kept quiet about it. In 2005, a Florida hospital disclosed that
77 brain cancer patients had received 50 percent more radiation than
prescribed because a powerful linear accelerator had been programmed
incorrectly for nearly a year.
York Times January 23, 2010
York Times January 22, 2010
York Times Blog January 23, 2010
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
When the treatment is worse than the
disease, it’s time to find another treatment.
If you haven’t read the entire
NY Times article, I would encourage you to do so as they provide graphic
details of the complications that have occurred during these types of
As the article makes clear, anyone receiving
x-rays for treatment of cancer is particularly prone to these fatal
mistakes, since the doses involved are massive.
If you or someone you know is receiving
this type of therapy, you need to print the NY Times article out and
bring it to your doctor and DEMAND that they explain in CAREFUL detail
how they are going to prevent this from happening to you.
If it were myself, or my family member,
you can be darn sure I would be in the room with the technician double-checking
them to make sure that the correct dose was administered.
Is Non-Accidental X-Ray Treatment
Setting aside the problem of medical
errors for a moment, even x-rays that are used “as directed”
can expose you to significant risk.
A host of epidemiological studies have
strongly suggested that x-rays and other ionizing radiation are a cause
of most types of human cancer. X-rays may even be responsible for most
of the deaths from cancer and ischemic heart disease, according
to John Gofman, MD, PhD, a professor at U. C. Berkeley and one of the
leading experts in the world. Gofman is a nuclear physicist and a medical
doctor who wrote a
book on the subject.
Ionizing radiation is a uniquely potent
mutagen due to its ability to wreak havoc upon your cells and their
Your cells are unable to repair the very
complex genetic damage done by x-rays. Some of the mutated cells die,
but others do not, and the cells that go on living have a proliferative
advantage—giving rise to the most aggressive cancers.
Unlike some other mutagens, x-rays have
access to the genetic molecules of every one of your internal organs,
if the organ is within range of the x-ray beam. Even a single high-speed,
high-energy electron, set into motion by an x-ray photon, can bounce
around and cause you irreparable damage.
That is why there is no safe dose
X-rays are 2 to 4 times more mutagenic
than high-energy beta and gamma rays, per rad (R) of exposure. Fluoroscopy
is particularly damaging because the x-ray beam stays “on”
during the procedure.
Radiation was introduced into medicine
almost immediately after the discovery of the x-ray by Wilhelm Roentgen
in 1895. Since then, imaging technologies like CT, MRI and nuclear medicine
scans have exploded.
According to a study by the Government
Accountability Office, the amount spent on medical imaging doubled between
2000 and 2006, reaching about $14 billion a year from Medicare alone.
And a 10-year study by University of
California, San Francisco, found the use of CT scans doubled between1997
CT scans and mammograms emit far more
radiation than conventional X-rays. A CT scan of the chest delivers
100 times the radiation of a conventional chest X-ray, and a mammogram
delivers 1,000 times more radiation.
According to David Brenner of Columbia
one-third of all CT scans done today are unnecessary. He predicts
from his study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine[i],
that overuse of diagnostic CT scans may cause up to 3 million cancers
over the next 20 to 30 years.
Even the American Cancer Society lists
high-dose radiation to the chest as a medium to high risk factor for
You’re being Needlessly
There is no doubt that the use of radiation
in medicine has many benefits—that’s indisputable. However,
you may not be aware that you could be having the same x-rays done for
a fraction of the radiation exposure.
We’ve had the technical know-how
Within the professions of radiology and
radiologic physics, there are mainstream experts who have shown how
the dosage of x-rays in current practice could
be cut by 50 percent—and much more—without any loss
of information and without eliminating a single procedure.
The potential for dose-reduction may
far exceed 50 percent without loss of quality, and in fact with an improvement
in quality due to uniform exposure:
•Radiation can be reduced at least
5-fold for some common x-ray exams
•Radiation can be reduced at least 8-fold for abdominal exposures
•Mammogram radiation can be reduced 55- to 69-fold for various
But do you think radiologists are jumping at the chance to turn down
Not by a long shot. You might as well
ask your physician to drive his new Corvette 50 miles per hour on the
Think about it. By dialing down X-ray
machines, they would last longer, needing fewer supplies and less frequent
replacements, and patients would stay healthier. That doesn’t
sound like a plan that will generate any big year-end bonuses for the
x-ray device company reps.
And the oncologists would be much less
Alternatives to CT Scans and Mammograms
There may be times when a CT scan might
be warranted, depending on your condition. But in general, I suggest
avoiding CT scans as much as possible. An MRI can often be substituted
for a CT, with far fewer harmful side effects.
Most physicians continue to recommend
for fear of being sued by a woman who develops breast cancer after he
did not advise her to get one.
Despite what you have heard, there is
no proof that mammograms will reduce your risk of dying from breast
cancer. Although mammography does leads to the discovery of smaller,
earlier stage tumors, it
does not improve breast cancer survival rates over examination alone.
And mammograms produce a lot of false
positives—as high as 89 percent—increasing your chances
of being damaged by an unnecessary mastectomy, more radiation, and chemotherapy.
But I encourage you to instead consider
a much safer and more effective alternative called thermographic
A thermographic screening measures infrared
heat from your body and translates this information into anatomical
images. It uses no mechanical pressure or ionizing radiation, and can
detect signs of breast cancer up to 10 years earlier than either mammography
or a physical exam.
Playing in the High-Beam
Medicine has made some huge
errors of judgment over the past several centuries, one of which
involved a complete disregard for the power of the x-ray. The creation
of the Shoe Fitting X-Ray Machine or Shoe Fitting Fluoroscope was one
of the most laughable scientific blunders in history.
The shoe-fitting fluoroscope was the
brainchild of Clarence Karrer of Milwaukee around 1924, who worked for
his father, a dealer in x-ray equipment and surgical supplies.
This dangerous device was a common fixture
in shoe stores during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. By the 1950s, about
10,000 units were operating in stores all over the U. S. A typical unit
consisted of a vertical wooden cabinet with an opening near the bottom
into which a person’s feet were placed.[ii]
When you looked through one of the three
viewing ports on the top of the cabinet, you would see a fluorescent
image of the bones of your feet inside the outline of your shoes. It
was common for the child being fitted, the parent, and the shoe salesman
to all be peering through the ports at once.
Most units had a push-button timer that
could be set for the desired exposure time, from 5 to 45 seconds. The
most common setting was 20 seconds.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
It WAS fun, except for the folks who
were exposed to and damaged by rather large doses of radiation—particularly
the machine operators and shoe salesman, who were in and out of the
machine all day, every day.
Measurements of the amounts of radiation
given off by these machines ranged from 7-14 R for a 20 second exposure,
to 16-75 R/minute. There were also significant exposures for those standing
several feet away from the machine while it was running.
In 1960, these machines were finally
banned in the US, largely due to increasing pressure from insurance
companies. There is some evidence that these machines continued to be
used in Canada and the UK until around 1970.
Not one of medicine’s brighter
ideas, to say the least!
[i] Brenner DJ and Hall EJ. “Computed
tomography—And increasing source of radiation exposure,”
NEJM (November 29, 2007) 357(22):2277-2284
fluoroscope (ca. 1930-1940),”
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Children Die Every Year from CT Scans
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Posted by: Dr. Mercola