How X-Ray Mammography Is Accelerating the Epidemic of Cancer

How X-Ray Mammography Is Accelerating the Epidemic of Cancer

How X-Ray Mammography Is Accelerating the Epidemic of Cancer – While a growing body of research now suggests that x-ray mammography is causing more harm than good in the millions of women who subject themselves to breast screenings, annually, without knowledge of their true health risks, the primary focus has been on the harms associated with over-diagnosis and over-treatment, and not the radiobiological dangers of the procedure itself.

In 2006, a paper published in the British A Journal of Radiobiology, titled “Enhanced Biological Effectiveness of Low-Energy X-Rays and Implications for the UK Breast Screening Program,” revealed the type of radiation used in x-ray based breast screenings is much more carcinogenic than previously believed: “Recent radiobiological studies have provided compelling evidence that the low-energy x-rays as used in mammography are approximately 4 times – but possibly as much as six times – more effective in causing mutational damage than higher energy x-rays. Since current radiation risk estimates are based on the effect of high energy gamma radiation, this implies that the risk of radiation induced breast cancers for mammography x-rays are underestimated by the same factor.”

In other words, the radiation risk model used to determine whether the benefit of breast screening in asymptomatic women outweighs their harm, underestimates the risk of mammography induced breast and related cancers by between 4 – 600%.

 “Risk estimates for radiation-induced cancer – principally derived from the atomic bomb survivor study (ABSS) – are based on the effects of high energy gamma rays and thus the implication is that the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer arising from mammography may be higher than that assumed based on standard risk estimates.”

This is not the only study to demonstrate mammography x-rays are more carcinogenic than atomic bomb spectrum radiation. There is also an extensive amount of data on the downside of x-ray mammography.

Sadly, even if one uses the outdated radiation risk model, which underestimates the harm done, the weight of the scientific evidence actually shows that breast screenings are in all likelihood not doing any good in those who undergo them. In a 2009 Cochrane Database Systematic Review, the authors revealed the tenuous statistical justifications for mass breast screening: “Screening led to 30% over-diagnosis and over-treatment, or an absolute risk increase of 0.5%. This means that for every 2000 women invited for screening throughout 10 years, one will have her life prolonged and 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed if there had not been a screening, will be treated unnecessarily. Furthermore, more than 200 women will experience important psychological distress for many months because of false positive findings. It is not clear whether screening does more good than harm.”

So, let’s assume that these reviews are correct, and at the very best, the screenings are not doing any good, and at worst, causing more harm than good. The question, however, is how much more harm than good? If we consider that, according to the data from Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2011), a mammogram uses 4 mSv of radiation versus the .02 mSv of your average chest x-ray which is 200 times more radiation, and then, we factor in the 4-600% higher genotoxicity/carcinogenicity associated with the specific “low-energy” wavelengths used in mammography, it is highly possible that beyond the epidemic of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, mammograms are planting seeds of radiation-induced cancer within the breasts of millions of women.

How X-Ray Mammography Is Accelerating the Epidemic of Cancer

With the advent of non-ionizing radiation-based diagnostic technologies, such as thermography, it has become vitally important that patients educate themselves about the alternatives to x-ray mammography that already exist. Until then, we must use our good sense – and research like this – to inform our decisions, and as far as the unintended adverse effects of radiation go, erring on the side of caution whenever possible.