- Associated Press -
We fret about airport scanners, power lines, cell phones and even microwaves. It's true that we get too much radiation. But it's not from those sources — it's from too many medical tests.
Americans get the most medical radiation in the world, even more than folks in other rich countries. The U.S. accounts for half of the most advanced procedures that use radiation, and the average American's dose has grown sixfold over the last couple of decades.
Too much radiation raises the risk of cancer. That risk is growing because people in everyday situations are getting imaging tests far too often. Like the New Hampshire teen who was about to get a CT scan to check for kidney stones until a radiologist, Dr. Steven Birnbaum, discovered he'd already had 14 of these powerful X-rays for previous episodes. Adding up the total dose, "I was horrified" at the cancer risk it posed, Birnbaum said.
After his own daughter, Molly, was given too many scans following a car accident, Birnbaum took action: He asked the two hospitals where he works to watch for any patients who had had 10 or more CT scans, or patients under 40 who had had five — clearly dangerous amounts. They found 50 people over a three-year period, including a young woman with 31 abdominal scans.
When other radiologists tell him they've never found such a case, Birnbaum replies: "That tells me you haven't looked."