By Dr. Mercola
A study in the journal Canceri shows that people who have had dental X-rays are more likely to develop a type of brain tumor called meningioma than those who have not.
According to CNN Healthii :
"The meningioma patients had more than a two-fold increased likelihood of having ever experienced a dental X-ray test called a bitewing exam. Depending on the age at which the exams were done, those who'd had these exams on a yearly basis, or more often, were 1.4 to 1.9 times more likely to have had a meningioma.
... Panorex exams, which involve images of all of the teeth on one film, were also linked to meningioma risks. If study participants had panorex exams when they were younger than 10 years old, their risk of meningioma went up 4.9 times. One of these around-the-head X-rays carries about twice as much radiation as four bitewing X-rays."
How Often Should You Get Routine Dental X-Rays?
While this study does not necessarily establish causation between dental X-rays and tumors, previous research has also implicated dental X-rays in the development of thyroid cancer, and research clearly shows this type of radiation is not harmless...
Since the average age of the study's participants was 57, researchers said the findings may be a result of X-rays given years ago, with older technology and higher doses than those administered with newer equipment.
However, researchers did express concern that even with the lower dosage, people still get dental X-rays more frequently than recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA).
According to ADA guidelinesiii dental x-rays are recommended:
- Every two to three years for adult without cavities and no increased risk for cavities, who is not new to his or her dentist
- Annually or bi-annually for children without cavities who's not at increased risk
According to CNN:
"There's currently a low threshold for dentists to order dental X-rays, says Dr. Keith Black, director of the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. Even if X-rays are not necessary for a procedure, dentists often request them as part an annual exam.
Black hopes dentists will pay attention to this research linking the X-rays to brain tumors. There are important uses for dental X-rays in making decisions regarding certain procedures. But if the teeth are otherwise healthy, Black recommends against the radiation.
There is a latency period - a lag time - of about 20 to 25 years with meningiomas induced by radiation, O'Rourke said. Only about 1% to 5% of meningiomas are cancerous, but in people with known increased radiation exposure, that risk can go up, he said."
It's worth noting the significant weaknesses of this study as well. The study relied on self-reported data, meaning people were asked to share how many bitewing, full-mouth and panorex dental x-rays they'd had throughout their life. This clearly is a major drawback of this study as it leaves plenty of room for reporting errors—for better or for worse. That said, there's plenty of evidence supporting the claim that x-rays and medical imaging tests in general can be, and likely are, a causative factor of future cancers.
My personal recommendation is to find a dentist that uses digital X-ray equipment that does not use film but a sensor to capture the image. This type of equipment typically generates 90 percent less radiation and is far safer. The dentist I see uses this type of X-ray equipment.
Radiation Imaging Tests Increase Cancer and Heart Disease Risks
Diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, mammograms, and CT machines have become a routine part of medical care. They're not only used in major hospitals, but in private doctors' offices, chiropractic offices, outpatient facilities and other medical centers. According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurementsiv, these types of tests are now so common that American's average radiation exposure has increased seven times since 1980.
Unfortunately, many facilities can't (or don't want to) pay for key safety experts like physicists and engineers to keep these machines properly calibrated and maintained to avoid over-exposure, since they do not contribute directly to the financial bottom line.
According to John Gofman, MD, PhD, there is strong evidence that HALF of all cancer deaths, and 60 percent of the death rate from ischemic heart disease are induced by ionizing radiation treatments...
Dr. Gofman is both a nuclear physicist and a medical doctor, and is one of the leading experts in the world on this issue. He presents compelling evidence backing up these assertions in his book Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Diseasev. For decades, x-rays and other classes of ionizing radiation have been a proven cause of virtually all types of mutations, especially structural chromosomal mutations. X-rays are also an established cause of genomic instability, often a characteristic of the most aggressive cancers.
It's tragic beyond belief, but many of our conventional medical tests and treatments contribute to worsening disease states, including cancer; and conventional cancer treatments are oftentimes just as deadly as the disease itself. Granted, virtually every action carries some level of risk.
Mammography May Cause More Harm than Good
At some point, we really should stop and admit we're doing more harm than good, by the fact that the tests or treatments are harming more people than they're helping... By some accounts, we're at that point already.
Take mammography for example.
The toxic effects of mammogram radiation are finally being acknowledged as a significant factor in the development of breast cancer, and several recent studies have clearly shown that breast cancer screenings may be causing women more harm than good. In September 2010, the New England Journal of Medicinevi, one of the most prestigious medical journals, published the first study in years to examine the effectiveness of mammograms. The data showed that mammograms seem to have reduced cancer death rates by only 0.4 deaths per 1,000 women—an amount so small it might as well be zero. Put another way, 2,500 women would have to be screened over 10 years for a single breast cancer death to be avoided!
Past research has also shown that adding an annual mammogram to a careful physical examination of the breasts does not improve breast cancer survival rates over physical examination alone.
The latest report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) also calls into question the role environmental exposure may be playing in the development of breast cancer, and recommends more research into the risks of various environmental exposures—such as medical x-rays and mammography—over the course of a woman's lifetime. Isn't it ironic that the mammogram—the principal diagnostic test given to women to help detect and prevent breast cancer—is actually responsible for increasing your risk for developing it in the future?
Why is the War on Cancer Such a Miserable Failure?
There are many reasons, but one important one that needs to be changed if we are to ever move forward, is the issue of basing treatments on fraudulent and/or inaccurate research. According to NBC News, recent studies on the "War on Cancer" show that almost 90 percent of "landmark" early stage cancer research looking for improved treatments is just plain wrongvii. The allegations about the questionable research appear in the prestigious journal Natureviii, in which the authors describe instances where they couldn't replicate studies reported by major drug companies. In fact, out of 53 studies widely cited by other researchers as "significant progress" in the battle against cancer, only a measly 11 percent of the conclusions were replicable. As stated by NBC News:
"In science, replication is proof. If a study can't be reproduced reliably, it is wrong."
The reason the studies couldn't be replicated, they said, is because scientists often ignore negative findings in their results that might raise a warning. Instead, they opt for cherry-picking conclusions in an effort to put their research in a favorable light.
According to NBC Newsix :
"As Begley and Ellis detail it, "To obtain funding, a job, promotion or tenure, researchers need a strong publication record…Journal editors, reviewers, and grant review committees... often look for a scientific finding that is simple, clear and complete—a 'perfect' story. It is therefore tempting for investigators to submit suspected data sets for publication, or even to massage data." Whatever the motivation, the results are all too often wrong.
Begley and Ellis call for nothing less than a change in the culture of cancer research. They demand more willingness to admit to imperfections and an end to the practice of failing to publish negative results. "We in the field," they say, "must remain focused on the purpose of cancer research: to improve the lives of patients."
Overused Medical Procedures that Needlessly Waste Billions of Dollars
Sadly, all these errors in judgment end up costing us—both in lives lost due to inaccurate medicine, and in dollars and cents paid. Every dollar adds up, as any shopping trip will show you, and wasteful medicine costs the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $700 BILLION a year!x
Using rigorous scientific approaches, a team of specialty physicians recently identified no less than 45 tests and procedures that are commonly used but have no proven benefit for patients—and sometimes cause more harm than good. The team included nine different U.S. medical special societies representing 374,000 physicians. The 45 evidence-based recommendations are posted on the website ChoosingWisely.orgxi, created to educate both doctors and patients about working to improve medical care while reducing costs. Among the items on this list are:
Use of unproven diagnostic tests Unnecessary use of CT scans and routine X-rays Pap smears on women younger than 21 or on women who have had a hysterectomy Routine cancer screening for dialysis patients with limited life expectancies Stress cardiac imaging or coronary angiography in patients without cardiac symptoms Brain imaging scans after fainting Antibiotics for uncomplicated sinus infections that are caused by viruses Imaging of the lower spine within the first six weeks after suffering back pain Bone scans for early prostate and breast cancer patients at low risk of metastasis
How Drug Companies Manipulate Research Evidence to Fool You
While part of the problem currently plaguing our medical system relates to human errors, another part of the problem is outright fraud, deception, and manipulation of science for profit alone. A new series featured in an online forum offers insight into how the pharmaceutical industry manipulates research, from what you hear in the news to the actual medical journals this medical fiction is published in.
According to The Conversationxii, transparency in medicine—if it even exists—is clouded by the way marketing departments control and distort information in the medical literature.
Jon Jureidini is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Adelaide (Australia), and he got an inside look at this murky mess while examining drug company internal documents as an expert witness in a case against a pharmaceutical company. Provided with access to a huge number of internal documents, he learned that various drug companies gave millions of dollars not only to academic institutions to fund research, but also to individual researchers.
The documents also showed "serious misrepresentation" of both the effectiveness and safety of certain drugs, with published articles making the research appear positive and negative secondary outcomes deleted. When you consider that THIS is the type of research data that then ends up being used to make treatment decisions for years to come, is it any wonder we're in such an expensive and ineffective mess—and further than ever from winning the war against cancer?
Is the Price Americans Pay for Cancer Treatment Worth the Results?
In an analysis of the cancer industry, a public policy researcher has published a paperxiii suggesting that when it comes to cancer care, the higher price paid by Americans for their cancer care is "worth it," the LA Times reportsxiv .
"First, the team examined the costs — and found that Americans spend much more on cancer care than Europeans, with U.S. spending increasing 49%, from $47,000 per case to $70,000 per case (in 2010 dollars,) between 1983 and 1999. In the European countries, spending grew 16% over the same period, from $38,000 to $44,000.
Then they looked at survival data for patients with types of cancer, including breast, prostate, colorectal and blood cancers, among others. Comparing length of time from diagnosis to death, as well as differences in survival gains over time, they discovered that among patients diagnosed from 1995 to 1999, average survival in the U.S was 11.1 years and in the European countries studied was 9.3 years.
Finally, the team used a standard method to put a "conservative" monetary value on the extra longevity of $150,000 per year. Crunching all the numbers, they found that the extra years Americans enjoyed amounted to $598 billion worth of benefit over the period studied — about $61,000, on average, per patient."
I don't know about you, but I think there are multiple ways of evaluating whether it's "worth" paying nearly 50 percent more for cancer treatment than people with cancer in other countries are being charged, and only getting an extra two years of survival out of it...
Cancer's Greatest Enemy: Your Immune System
So, if conventional medicine isn't moving in the right direction, what's the answer? How can you avoid becoming another statistic? Well, recent discoveries suggest that your immune system is actually designed to eliminate cancer naturally. However, when you implement caustic medical interventions (such as radiation and chemotherapy) that damage your immune system so that it cannot respond appropriately, you are destroying your body's best chances for healing. There is now a great deal of scientific evidence supporting the theory that your own immune system is your best weapon against cancer:
- Individuals with liver or ovarian cancer survive longer if their killer T cells have invaded their tumors.
- A 2005 study showed that colon cancers that most strongly attract T cells are the least likely to recur after treatment.xv
- Another study found that 60 percent of precancerous cervical cells (found on PAP tests) revert to normal within a year, and 90 percent revert within three years.xvi
- Some kidney cancers are known to regress, even when highly advanced.
Thirty Percent of Breast Tumors Go Away on their Own
The presence of white blood cells in and around a tumor is often an indication that the cancer will go into remission—or even vanish altogether—as this New York Times article explainsxvii . And breast cancer is no exception. According to breast surgeon Susan Love of UCLA, at least 30 percent of tumors found on mammograms would go away if you did absolutely nothing.xviii These tumors appear to be destined to stop growing on their own, shrink, and even go away completely.
This begs the question—how many cancer cures that are attributed to modern interventions like chemotherapy and radiation, are actually just a function of the individual's immune system ridding itself of the tumor on its own? And how many people get over cancer in spite of the treatments that wreak havoc on the body, rather than because of them?
It is impossible to definitively answer these questions. But it is safe to say that the strength of your immune system is a major factor in determining whether or not you will beat cancer, once you have it. Nearly everyone has cancerous and pre-cancerous cells in their body by middle age, but not everyone develops cancer. The difference lies in the robustness of each person's immune system.
Dr. Barnett Kramer of NIHxix says it's becoming increasingly clear that cancers require more than just mutations to progress. They need the cooperation of surrounding cells, certain immune responses, and hormones to fuel them. Kramer describes cancer as a dynamic process, whereas it used to be regarded as "an arrow that moved in one direction" (e.g., from bad to worse). What does this mean for you?
The better you take care of your immune system, the better it will take care of you.
One way to strengthen your immune system is to minimize your exposure to mammograms and other sources of ionizing radiation. But you can also build up your immune system DAILY by making good diet and lifestyle choices. One of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your vitamin D level.
Vitamin D: Cancer Fighter Extraordinaire
Vitamin D, a steroid hormone that influences virtually every cell in your body, is one of nature's most potent cancer fighters. Receptors that respond to vitamin D have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your bones to your brain. Your liver, kidney and other tissues can convert the vitamin D in your bloodstream into calcitriol, which is the hormonal or activated version of vitamin D. Your organs then use it to repair damage and eradicate cancer cells.
Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis, or cancer cell death.
When JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, injected a potent form of vitamin D into human breast cancer cells, half of them shriveled up and died within days. The vitamin D worked as well at killing cancer cells as the toxic breast cancer drug Tamoxifen, without any of the detrimental side effects and at a tiny fraction of the cost.
I strongly recommend making sure your vitamin D level is 70 to 100ng/ml if you've received a breast cancer diagnosis. You can achieve this through direct, safe exposure to ultraviolet light, or if this is not possible, by taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement. Vitamin D works synergistically with every cancer treatment I am aware of, without adverse effects. Please watch my free one-hour lecture on vitamin D for more information. For a comprehensive guide to breast cancer prevention and treatment, refer to this previous article. Some of the other research-based breast cancer fighters include the following:
- Eating plenty of fresh, whole, organic vegetables, especially fermented vegetables
- Avoiding all processed foods, and minimizing sugar, grains and starchy foods
- Vitamin A plays a role in preventing breast cancer; your best sources are organic egg yolks, raw milk and butter, and beef and chicken liver (from organically raised, grass pastured animals)
- Curcumin (the active agent in turmeric) is one of the most potent tumor-inhibiting foods; black cohosh, artemisinin, green tea, kelp, cruciferous vegetables and evening primrose oil also show promise in helping to prevent breast cancer
- Exercising regularly
- i Cancer April 10, 2012 [Epub ahead of print]
- ii CNN Health April 10, 2012
- iii FDA Guidelines for Prescribing Dental Radiographs
- iv The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements
- v Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Disease by Dr. John Gofman
- vi Effect of Screening Mammography on Breast-Cancer Mortality in Norway, New England Journal of Medicine, September 23, 2010: 363(13); 1203-10, Mette Kalager, MD, et al.
- vii NBC News March 28, 2012
- viii Nature March 28, 2012;483(7391):531-3
- ix NBC News March 28, 2012
- x The Washington Post April 4, 2012
- xi ChoosingWisely.org
- xii The Conversation April 5, 2012
- xiii Health Affairs April 2012: 31(4); 667-675
- xiv LA Times April 9, 2012
- xv Effect of Screening Mammography on Breast-Cancer Mortality in Norway, New England Journal of Medicine, September 23, 2010: 363(13); 1203-10, Mette Kalager, MD, et al.
- xvi Regression of Low-grade Squamous Intra-epithelial Lesions in Young Women, The Lancet, November 6, 2004: 364(9446); 1678-1683, Anna-Barbara Moscicki, M.D., et al.
- xvii Cancers Can Vanish Without Treatment, but How?, The New York Times, October 26, 2009: Gina Kolata
- xviii Could This Be The End of Cancer?, Newsweek, December 12, 2011: Sharon Begley
- xix Cancers Can Vanish Without Treatment, but How?, The New York Times, October 27, 2009: Gina Kolata