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Last week, a radiologist and a cardiologist told readers of the New York Times that because of medical imaging, “We are silently irradiating ourselves to death.”

Authors of the bluntly worded op-ed piece, published Thursday and headlined “We Are Giving Ourselves Cancer,” were cardiologist Rita F. Redberg, MD, and radiologist Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, both of UCSF Medical Center (University of California, San Francisco). Both have previously advocated minimizing radiation dosages from imaging.

In the op-ed, they focused on CT scans, saying, “A single CT scan exposes a patient to the amount of radiation that epidemiologic evidence shows can be cancer-causing.” Here’s the core of their argument:

Of course, early diagnosis thanks to medical imaging can be lifesaving. But there is distressingly little evidence of better health outcomes associated with the current high rate of scans. There is, however, evidence of its harms.

Drs. Redberg and Smith-Bindman suggest both cutting back on overuse and minimizing dosages for scans that are appropriate.

They conclude with the following:

Neither doctors nor patients want to return to the days before CT scans. But we need to find ways to use them without killing people in the process.

North Carolina cardiologist Kevin R. Campbell, MD, inspired by the Times piece, posted his own thoughts on his blog. He titled the post “The Consequences of ‘Over-Testing’: Doc, Am I Glowing in the Dark?”

He agreed with the basic argument of Drs. Redberg and Smith-Bindman, and commented, “To place this all in perspective, the survivors of the atomic blasts in Japan were exposed to the equivalent radiation to two CT scans!”

As to what may be driving overtesting, Dr. Campbell suggested something that the Times piece did not mention: “Much of the over testing seen in the US is due to fear of litigation.”

However, he added, “Unfortunately, another reason for overuse of CT scanning and other types of imaging is profit.”

Related CME seminar (up to 20.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Computed Body Tomography: The Cutting Edge


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One Response to “Radiologist: ‘We Are Giving Ourselves Cancer’”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Doctor Says Clinics Should Track CT Dosages on February 25th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    […] We reported earlier this month on that piece, titled “We Are Giving Ourselves Cancer.” Dr. Redberg co-wrote it with Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, a radiologist at the UCSF Medical Center. […]