How do you feel about X-rays and CT scans?
While most of us have learned to accept X-rays and CT scans as a necessary evil required to get a thorough medical exam, in some cases the risks may outweigh the benefits.
Each year, a whopping 72 million CT scans are performed in the United States and, according to the National Cancer Institute, they could potentially lead to as many as 29,000 future cancers.1 To make matters worse, as many as 44% of them are determined to have been ordered inappropriately or unnecessarily.2
While many advances have been made to lower radiation exposure from X-rays (including dental) and CT scans, compelling evidence suggests radiation accumulates, and may have lasting detrimental effects.
In 2013, The British Medical Journal published a study that followed 1 million people from birth into young adulthood and found that the group that had CT scans had a 24% increased risk of developing cancer compared to the group that did not get scans.3
Sadly, the more scans one had, the greater the risk and, tragically, the risk persisted for years. Compared to folks who did not get a CT scan, the risks were as follows:
Cancer Risks from CT Scans
- 35% higher risk in first four years following exposure
- 25% higher risk in five to nine years following exposure
- 14% higher risk in 10-14 years following exposure
While X-ray imaging techniques can diagnose a host of life-threatening conditions, these new findings should encourage us to consult doctors regarding risk versus reward. This is particularly important because surveys show 35% of CT scans are prescribed by doctors out of fear of a lawsuit4, and only 9% of emergency room doctors were even aware CT scans increase cancer risk.5
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
Radiation from a dental X-ray is considerably lower today compared to older machines, but a new study in the journal Cancer shows people exposed to annual dental X-rays are twice as likely to develop a type of brain tumor called a meningioma, which is usually benign, although does require brain surgery.6
I have never met a dentist who wasn’t totally adamant about getting dental X-rays, and each one was certain that there was no risk—no worse than a plane flight. Maybe printing the following conclusion from the authors of the 2012 Journal of Cancer study may change your dentist’s mind:
“There is little evidence to support the use of dental X-rays in search of occult pathologies in asymptomatic patients or routine dental radiographs at preset intervals for all patients. Although dental X-rays are an important too in well-selected patients, efforts to moderate exposure to ionizing radiation to the head is likely to be of benefit to the patients and health care providers alike.”6
In a 2018 review of 2,158 studies of which 21 meet the criteria for this thorough evaluation on the safety of dental x-rays. The review concluded the following:15
- In brain tumor studies, the association between dental X-ray exposure and meningioma was statistically significant in 5 of the 7 studies.
- In 4 of the 5 thyroid-related studies, there was a significant correlation with dental diagnostic X-rays.
- In studies on head and neck areas, tumors included laryngeal, parotid gland, and salivary gland cancers. There was also a statistically significant correlation between full-mouth X-rays and salivary gland cancer, but not parotid gland cancer. Health outcomes such as leukemia, low birth weight, cataracts, and thumb carcinomas were also reported.
The study concluded that, “Considering the lifetime frequency of exposure to dental diagnostic X-rays, even a slight increase in health risk would be of considerable public health importance.”15
In another review of 5,537 studies evaluating the safety of routine dental x-rays, 26 studies which included 10,868 cancer patients qualified to be included. This meta-analyses, based on seven studies of thyroid cancer and eight studies of meningioma showed that multiple (or repeated) exposures to dental X-rays were significantly associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer and meningioma.16 This study concluded that, “Considering that about one-third of the general population in developed countries is routinely exposed to one or more dental X-rays per year, these findings manifest the need to reduce diagnostic radiation exposure as much as possible.”16
The mechanism for the damage ensued by radiation is related to DNA damage in the nucleus of the cell. When cells are irradiated, a number of DNA-breaking compounds (called clastogenic factors) are formed. These factors are linked to a type of free radical damage that breaks DNA strands and can lead to cancer. Such factors can linger in the body, causing damage for many years. Thirty years after the atom bomb went off in Japan, clastogenic factors were still detectable.
One strategy to offset this damage is to increase intake of foods and nutrients known to help repair DNA. Eating blueberries 7, supplementing with spirulina 8, and drinking lemon balm tea 9 before and after a required X-ray or CT scan may help protect the nucleus of the cell.
Turmeric is shown in many studies to support the body’s natural response to low-level radiation exposure.11 In other studies, constituent factors of turmeric, specifically curcumin, were shown to have radioprotective effects on a cellular level.12
Shilajit, (LifeSpa’s Regenerate) another Ayurvedic herb known to protect the body’s cells from oxidation damage, was found in one study to support ovarian cell response to radiation-induced apoptosis.13, 14 According to Ayurveda, shilajit is the most powerful longevity herb, as it helps protect cells from damage and premature aging.13
Tulsi Holy Basil has also been found to support the body’s natural response to oxidizing radiation. Extracts of tulsi (not captured in the tea) that include the flavanoids orientin and vicenin, and eugenol free support the body’s radical scavenging, antioxidant, metal chelating and a health inflammation response may contribute toward the observed radio protective effects.17
Iodine (LifeSpa’s Iodine HP) – One study concluded that, “the elimination of iodine deficiency in areas affected by Chernobyl may be important in reducing the effects of radiation exposure on the thyroid.18 Potassium iodide is well known to protect the thyroid from radiation exposure. Making sure you are not deficient in Iodine is the key according the research done after Chernobyl.18,19 Order your iodine test here!
We RecommendThe Complete Guide to Iodine Deficiency
What to Take Before + After Your X-Ray or CT Scan
How do you feel about X-rays and CT scans? What do you do to protect yourself?