Cancer risk from full body CT scan

CT (Computed Tomography) full body scanning is advertised by certain corporations and facilities as a preventive healthcare procedure for healthy individuals who have no symptoms of disease. The FDA is critical of this procedure, as it has no known benefit. However, it turns out that these scans may actually be harmful. An article published in the journal Radiology (v 232, p 735, 2004) estimates that CT full body scans may increase the risk for cancer. A single CT scan causes an increase in cancer risk estimated to be 1:1200. If a 45-year old person choses to undergo such scans till age 75, the risk increases to approximately 1:50! There are no results of any study that might show that these risks are offset by a decrease in risk in other illnesses.

Often, these tests detect atherosclerosis (hardening and calcification of the arteries - plaque), but this is typical in an aging population, and doesn't predict heart disease. (Heart attacks result from the breaking off of plaque - not from the atherosclerosis itself). Adding a cancer risk without a comparable benefit does not seem to be a reasonable approach to remaining healthy.

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Last Modification - October 24, 2004