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Too Much Radiation? The FDA Wants to Know
Date:3/30/2010

n CT scans are now done in the United States each year. In the early 1980s, only 3 million were done annually. The institute also estimates that up to 14,000 people die every year from radiation-induced cancers.

"The amount of radiation Americans are exposed to from medical imaging has dramatically increased over the past 20 years," Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement released in February when the agency unveiled a plan to increase communication between doctors and patients about the pros and cons of medical imaging. "The goal of FDA's initiative is to support the benefits associated with medical imaging while minimizing the risks."

Though the extent of a cancer risk remains a topic of debate, most experts agree that exposure to unnecessary radiation from these devices should be reduced. The radiation from a CT scan of the abdomen equals that of about 400 chest X-rays, and a dental X-ray has about half the radiation of a chest X-ray, according to the FDA.

An article in the March 28 edition of The New York Times reported that the FDA ignored warnings from its scientists about the risks of routinely using CT scans to screen people for colon cancer, a procedure sometimes called a virtual colonoscopy.

After an FDA official recommended approving the application for a device made by General Electric, Dr. Julian Nicholas, a gastroenterologist who worked under contract with the FDA, said he felt strongly that approving the application could "expose a number of Americans to a risk of radiation that is unwarranted and may lead to instances of solid organ abdominal cancer," according to the Times report.

Nicholas told The Times that he was later urged to change his view: "I was first ignored, then pressured to change my scientific opinion, and when I refused to do that, I was intimidated and ultimately terminated. And I'm going to tell
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