I was contacted recently by one of these companies offering body scans to check for various illnesses, especially stroke risk. I have also read quite a bit in the last few months about scans (see a couple of news stories below) and whether they are actually doing us more harm than good. I thought it might be useful for you to know which scans are safe and which not. As you can see, ultrasound and MRIs do not give off radiation, but CAT scans and Xrays do, so always check what type of scan you are due to have and ask if there are any alternatives if you are worried.
MOT SCANS FOR THE WORRIED WELL TO BE CURBED BECAUSE OF CANCER RISK, Guardian 7.4.10
A clampdown on clinics offering health checks to the ‘worried well’ which include whole body scans was signalled by the Government yesterday amid concerns over exposure of healthy people to unnecessary nuclear radiation. The Dept of Health has accepted all 9 recommendations of the Govt’s Advisory Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) which called for action within 2 years. The report said radiation from X-ray computed tomography (CT or CAT scans) on a speculative basis increased cancer risk and that the radiation risks outweigh any benefits. Some private clinics recommend whole body scans every 5 years or even every year for the over-45s. This would cause a very high cumulative radiation exposure which could lead to 1 in 50 of those individuals so scanned dying from cancer induced by CT scans. MRI scans & ultrasound give off no nuclear radiation.
BREAST SCREENING ‘FAILS TO CUT CANCER DEATHS’: THOUSANDS COULD BE ENDURING NEEDLESS SURGERY Daily Mail 24.3.10
The £75 million NHS breast cancer screening makes little difference to death rates and may lead to needless treatment, a study published in the British Medical Journal online found. The 10-year study of 110,000 women was carried out by the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Denmark. It compared areas of Denmark which have a routine breast screening programme with those that do not. Prof. Michael Baum, an international authority on breast cancer, is concerned about the number of women who are given unnecessary mastectomies and other treatments as a result of screening.