Radiating Fear

A new report today warns that increased use of CT scans and subsequent increased exposure to radiation could account for nearly 2 percent of cancer (a figure some say is an exaggeration). The usage of CT scans has increased dramatically over the last couple of decades, and the authors of the study are apparently concerned about the public health risk that the scans pose. I doubt however that they’ve quantified the number of lives that CT scans have saved by accurately diagnosing conditions early.

These same scientists released an early study in 2001 which led to government recommendations on how to limit scans on children. This latest report may revive discussion about ways to curb the use of CT scans. But increased regulation of medical diagnostic tools is not the way to save lives. Restricting the use of CT scans will simply drive up the cost and ensure that fewer people get the right diagnosis in time.

A better solution, in response to radiation concerns, is advancing technology, which is already in process. Scientists have developed new scanners and new methods of CT scanning that retain the picture quality while reducing radiation. Because legislation moves at a much slower pace than scientific advancement, any regulation on CT scans will impede science’s progress toward more effective and safer scanners.