A cruel irony is that mot of the machines that go “ping”, may trigger cancers rather than just diagnose them. Radiation from the MRI, CT scanner or humble x-ray has always been a known hazard. This latest study into mammograms and breast cancer is particularly important.
LONDON: People with a family history of breast cancer may unknowingly increase their risk of developing the disease through exposure to radiation from mammograms.
A new study of 1600 women with BRCA 1 and 2 mutations – defective genes linked to breast cancer – found they were 54per cent more likely to suffer the disease if they had had a chest X-ray.
More worryingly, women given chest X-rays before the age of 20 were at twice the risk of developing breast cancer before their 40th birthday.
Scientists said the findings, if confirmed by further research, suggested the need for at-risk women to seek alternative methods of breast screening.
“This is one of the first studies to demonstrate that women genetically predisposed to breast cancer may be more susceptible to low-dose ionising radiation than other women,” said David Goldgar, lead researcher and head of the Genetic Epidemiology Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France.
“If (the findings are) confirmed in prospective studies, young women who are members of families known to have BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations may wish to consider alternatives to X-rays, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).”
BRCA 1 and 2 are genes that make proteins involved in repairing damage to DNA in breast cells.
X-rays disrupt DNA but as long as the radiation dose is not too high, the damage is naturally repaired.
Cancer cells do not have the same self-repair ability, which is why X-rays are used in radiotherapy to destroy cancer.
Inheriting a copy of either BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 means that a woman has an 80 per cent chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 70, as against a 10 per cent chance for other women.
The findings were published yesterday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
In the past few years a trend has emerged that those who can afford go off and have a full body scan every year or 2 in the hope that if anything untoward is brewing they can catch it before symptoms develop. I’d suggest you leave exposure to these machines to times you absolutely need to. Here a little ‘prevention’, could unnecessarily become a cause.