Overall, they found that directing an X-ray to the thickest part of a person's fat allowed delivery of a lower radiation dose than would be needed if a different area were targeted.
Even so, the dosage needed to get an effective X-ray via the abdominal region of a moderately overweight man was up to 10 times greater than for a lean man, the study found. And for a more severely overweight or obese person, the needed dosage was up to 40 times greater than for someone of normal weight.
The findings are reported in the July issue of Radiology.
Yanch and her team pointed out, however, that the development of adipose tissue cancer from radiation exposure has not been proven. In fact, she said, the issue is not that the jury is still out but that it has not even begun to deliberate.
"For some procedures, the standard doses are very low, and so even 20 times higher than that is likely still too low to be concerned about," she noted. "But for some procedures, the doses to a very overweight person will be quite high. Yet the scientific field does not know what this all means. We don't know if this is anything to be concerned about yet. We have models and prediction, but no real data."
"The way to find out is to begin to pay close attention to what doses are being given over time, patient by patient, and what the outcomes are," she added.
Dr. Levon Nazarian, a professor of radiology and vice chairman for education at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, agreed that the central question is how the risk for health problems goes up with repeated exposure to high-dose radiation.
"It's true that the dose from a typical X-ray is very, very small," he said. "So, yes, 40 times a very small dose is st
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