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Study: Full Body Scans Could Increase Cancer Risk

Posted - Oct. 6, 2004 at 8:34 a.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingEach year, thousands of healthy Americans decide to get a full-body scan. Dozens of clinics across the country offer full-body cat scans without a doctor's prescription.

Some health-concious adults feel they need to get a full body scan. The service promises an early warning sign for potentially deadly conditions, such as cancer or heart disease.

However, researchers at Columbia University say these elective screenings could actually increase your risk of dying from cancer.

UCSF radiologist Dr. Fergus Coakley is an expert on cat scans.

"This study, I think, is appropriate and timely reminder that this is a non-trivial issue that we should be aware of both as radiologists and patients," he says.

Researchers calculated the radiation dose you get from a full body scan. They found the test exposes patients to a level of radiation comparable to some survivors of World War II atomic blasts in Japan.

They examined the mortality rates of these survivors, and then estimated the risk associated with single or multiple full body scans.

They found having a full body scan increases the risk of dying from cancer .08%. The same exam done annually for thirty years increases the risk nearly two percent.

Dr. Fergus Coakley: "At the moment, people should be aware that there is no proven benefit, and there is a small, tiny risk. They have to offset that and I would encourage themm to think twice about going for a screening ct."

The real issue is risk versus benefit. If you are displaying symptoms or a doctor orders it, the benefit of undergoing a diagnostic cat-scan far outweighs any risk.

But for preventive health reasons? There is no scientific evidence to prove full body scans have any benefit.

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