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Radiation Misinformation May Delay Crucial Treatment

Anyone who grew up with the threat of the Cold War hanging over their heads knows radiation is a bad thing. After all, as the movie “War Games” pointed out, deployment of nuclear weapons can only lead to a lose-lose situation. Be that as it may, radiation in small doses does not pose the threat that many believe. In fact, avoiding it very well might impede diagnosis and treatment of potentially life-threatening conditions.

Healthcare professionals are trying to spread the word that models once used to estimate cancer risk related to radiation-exposure don’t relate well to medical tests or treatment. These models that say any dose of radiation above zero opens the door for cancer risk are based on the type of high-dose, acute exposure an atomic bomb might produce. That means simply do not apply to screening tests like X-ray, CT scans and mammograms. Low-dose radiation is widely deemed as safe by medical professionals, researchers and the Food and Drug Administration.

New research has added to the body of evidence that supports the benefits of some radiation exposure, especially in regard to critical medical testing or treatment procedures. As it turns out, cells that happen to be damaged due to low dose radiation exposure are quite capable of healing themselves. Even people who regularly are exposed to more radiation than the general public are not likely to see an increased cancer risk rate. To date there is no evidence, for example, of a higher cancer rate among people who work in nuclear power plants.

The bottom line, researchers say, is that there is no reason to fear low-dose radiation. This is especially so when testing required is critical for making a diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening condition. While undergoing radiation-based testing without cause is never advised, an occasional X-ray or routine mammogram isn’t likely to enhance cancer risk, healthcare professionals say.

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