FDA Suppressed Imaging Safety Concerns

CT scans, radiation, FDADr. Julian Nicholas, a former Food and Drug Administration scientist, said his job was eliminated after he raised concerns about the risks of radiation exposure from high-grade medical scanning, the Seattle Times reports.

“Dr. Nicholas said at a public hearing that he and other FDA staffers "were pressured to change their scientific opinion," after they opposed the approval of a CT scanner for routine colon cancer screening. Nicholas said that he objected to exposing otherwise healthy patients to the cancer risks of radiation.”

The allegations about suppression of scientific dissent come at an inopportune time for the agency. The FDA recently announced an effort to improve scanning safety after three California hospitals reported hundreds of acute radiation overdoses last year.

The average American's radiation exposure has nearly doubled in the last three decades, largely due to CT tests.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Again, more proof that suppression of evidence is more or less standard practice within the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once again, industry profits were favored over public health by this agency… What will it take to root out the rot festering therein?

FDA Scientist Terminated After Raising Risks of Radiation Exposure

In this case, the Seattle Times reports that a (now former) FDA scientist was eliminated from his post after opposing the approval of a CT scanner for routine colon cancer screening and raising concerns about its health risks.

In a public hearing, he stated that he “objected to exposing otherwise healthy patients to the cancer risks of radiation.” He’s also quoted as saying that “scientific and regulatory review process for medical devices was being distorted by managers who were not following the laws."

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for awhile, you’re already aware that excess radiation exposure is a serious health threat. Even a single scan can cause harm in some cases, and that’s not taking into account the long-term damage being done when subjecting yourself to routine medical tests such as CT scans and mammograms.

In January, the New York Times reported that a Philadelphia hospital gave the wrong radiation dose to more than 90 patients with prostate cancer during 2009.

In 2005, a Florida hospital disclosed that 77 brain cancer patients had received 50 percent more radiation than prescribed because a powerful linear accelerator had been incorrectly programmed for nearly a year, and over 200 unsuspecting patients who underwent a specific type of CT brain scan at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles received eight to ten times the normal dose of radiation -- also due to an incorrectly programmed machine.

In these cases the excess exposures were not fatal, but time will tell how these patients fare down the line. Because what we do know is that radiation exposure increases your risk of DNA damage and cancer, which can take decades to surface.

CT Scans More Dangerous than Previously Believed

That the FDA is actively suppressing concerns about CT scan safety is made even more disturbing by the fact that recent studies have discovered CT scans deliver far greater doses of radiation than previously believed.

One study, which used human subjects rather than dummies equipped with sensors, found that people may be exposed to up to four times as much radiation as estimated by earlier studies, the USA Today reported in an article last year.

Worse yet, based on their measurements, a patient could get as much radiation from one CT scan as 74 mammograms, or 442 chest X-rays!

It’s believed CT scans may contribute to 29,000 new cancers each year, along with 14,500 deaths.

So these are no petty concerns.

In fact, a host of epidemiological studies over the years have strongly suggested that x-rays and other forms of ionizing radiation are a cause of most types of human cancer.

X-rays may even be responsible for most of the deaths from cancer and ischemic heart disease, according to John Gofman, MD, PhD, a professor at U. C. Berkeley and one of the leading experts in the world. Gofman is a nuclear physicist and a medical doctor who wrote a book on the subject.

Ionizing radiation is a uniquely potent mutagen due to its ability to wreak havoc on your cells and their genetic code. Your cells are unable to repair the very complex genetic damage done by x-rays. Some of the mutated cells die, but others do not, and the cells that go on living have a proliferative advantage—giving rise to the most aggressive cancers.

Unlike some other mutagens, x-rays have access to the genetic molecules of every one of your internal organs, if the organ is within range of the x-ray beam. Even a single high-speed, high-energy electron, set into motion by an x-ray photon, can bounce around and cause you irreparable damage.

That is why there is no safe dose of x-rays.

Meanwhile, CT scans and mammograms emit far more radiation than conventional X-rays. A CT scan of the chest delivers 100 times the radiation of a conventional chest X-ray, and a mammogram delivers 1,000 times more radiation.

According to David Brenner of Columbia University, about one-third of all CT scans done today are unnecessary. He predicts from his study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that overuse of diagnostic CT scans may cause up to 3 million cancers over the next 20 to 30 years.

Even the American Cancer Society lists high-dose radiation to the chest as a medium to high risk factor for developing cancer.

So why is the FDA refusing to listen to its own scientists – the very men and women hired to evaluate the risks of drugs and medical equipment, and approve or decline applications based on that evidence?

At every turn, you find evidence that funding the FDA with fees from the pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers they’re supposed to regulate creates an entirely unhealthy alliance. The scales are constantly tipped to the side of profit rather than protecting public health.

Further Reading

For more information about the dangers of radiation from medical scanning, please review this recent article.

Mammograms are of particular concern, which is explained further here.

And as for colon cancer screening, there are safer options available, which you can read more about in the article Major New Discovery to Predict Colon Cancer Earlier.

+ Sources and References