KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Radiation Scans Cause Increased Scrutiny

The Associated Press: "Americans get the most medical radiation in the world, even more than folks in other rich countries. The U.S. accounts for half of the most advanced procedures that use radiation, and the average American's dose has grown sixfold over the last couple of decades. Too much radiation raises the risk of cancer. That risk is growing because people in everyday situations are getting imaging tests far too often. … Of the many ways Americans are overtested and overtreated, imaging is one of the most common and insidious. ... Taken individually, tests that use radiation pose little risk. Over time, though, the dose accumulates. ..." Meanwhile, no federal rules exist to govern radiation doses -- except for those used for mammograms. "Children and young women ... sometimes get too much at busy imaging centers that don't adjust doses for each patient's size. That may soon change. In interviews with The Associated Press, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials described steps in the works, including possibly requiring device makers to print the radiation dose on each X-ray or other image so patients and doctors can see how much was given" (Marchione, 6/14).

Los Angeles Business Journal: "OSI Systems Inc., a leading maker of airport body scanners … finds itself in the midst of another growing controversy: concerns that the scanners may emit harmful amounts of radiation, despite safety assurances by the company and government." Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, sent a letter to the White House saying that one company's scanning system that creates an image that reveals if anything is hidden under clothing could be unsafe because it delivers radiation "as much as a hundred times more damaging than thought."

"The researchers said the scanner's 'very intense' X-ray beams could be harmful to travelers older than 65, women who are pregnant or prone to breast cancer, patients with cancer or HIV, and young children" (Haldane, 6/14).

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