Body scans can damage DNA and may create genetic mutations that cause tumours, a new study has warned.

Computerised tomography (CT) scans that produce 3D X-ray images showing structures such as organs, blood vessels, bones and tumours in great detail – expose patients to at least 150 times the amount of radiation from a single chest x-ray.

The advanced medical imaging is being used more and more frequently, but concern is growing about the potential for extremely negative effects from low-dose radiation.

Experts who examined the blood of heart patients undergoing CT scans found evidence of DNA damage and cell death.

Negative Effects Not Clear

Dr Patricia Nguyen, from Stanford University in the US said: “We now know that even exposure to small amounts of radiation from computed tomography scanning is associated with cellular damage.

“Whether or not this causes cancer or any negative effect to the patient is still not clear, but these results should encourage physicians toward adhering to dose reduction strategies.”

The scientists, whose findings are reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging, point out that little is known about the long-term effects of low dose radiation.

In the new study researchers examined the blood of 67 patients undergoing cardiac CT angiograms. Using such techniques as whole-genome sequencing and flow cytometery to measure biomarkers of DNA damage, researchers analysed the blood of patients both before and after receiving the procedure.

The team found that there was an increase in DNA damage and cell death, as well as increased expression of genes involved in cell repair and death. Although most cells damaged by the scan were repaired, a small percentage of the cells died according to the study.

“We Shouldn’t Eliminate CT Scans”

Dr Nguyen said: “We need to learn more because it’s not benign effect even at these low dosages. Our research supports the idea that maybe physicians shouldn’t just use the best image quality in all cases. We shouldn’t eliminate CT scans because they’re obviously important, but you can make it safer by reducing doses, by getting better machines and technology, and by giving patients something to protect them.”

She added: “It is important to note that we did not detect any DNA damage in patients receiving the lowest doses of radiation and who were of average weight and had regular heart rates.”

This study seems to have outlined, once again, the importance of a healthy lifestyle – for so many aspects of our wellbeing. If you would like to learn more about DNA or DNA testing the please visit our learning centre.

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