The Leading Cause of Breast Cancer?

Profiteers in the medical CT scan business took a big hit last week from a major new government report on the causes of breast cancer.

Published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the exhaustive analysis found that medical radiation, particularly the large radiation dose delivered by CT scans, is the foremost identifiable cause of breast cancer.[1]

Almost 230,480 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States, and about 40,000 women will die of the disease, roughly one out of every 3,875 women.

The new Institute of Medicine report probably doesn’t sit well with the industry, hospitals and clinics that make so many millions of dollars selling and over-using CT machines. The authors suggest that women avoid “unnecessary” or “inappropriate” medical radiation, a thinly veiled criticism of the industry that will give you a CT scan for a tooth ache if you don’t object to it.

In 1980, there were 3 million CT scans performed in this country. The number rose to 62 million in 2006,[2] to about 70 million by 2007,[3] and, according to NBC, to 72 million this year.[4] It’s a growth industry that doesn’t care if it promotes tumor growth.

The IOM committee made several suggestions for preventive actions that women can take, and the very first one is to “avoid inappropriate medical radiation exposure.” In the “Question & Answer” section of the IOM analysis online, the authors recommend “Avoiding medical radiation and hormone therapy, unless they are medically necessary, is a good idea.”

This suggestion has a vexing corollary since so-called mammography is just a lower dose of X-radiation given directly to breast tissue. Yet the new IOM study’s authors say in a footnote, “While recognizing the risks of ionizing radiation exposure, particularly for certain higher-dose methods (such as CT scans), it is not the committee’s intent to dissuade women from routine mammography screening.” Yet the advisability of mammography has been under attack ever since the British medical journal The Lancet in Oct. 2006 reported on a study by Dr. Peter Gotzsche that found the produced no health benefits. The late Dr. John Gofman argued for his entire career that X-rays caused more breast cancer then they detect, a position defended at length by Dr. Samuel Epstein in his book “The Politics of Cancer.”

CT Scans may cause 29,000 cancers and 15,000 cancer deaths every year

NBC News said in 2009 that each whole-body CT scan can deliver as much radiation in 10 minutes as 440 chest X-rays.[5]

The IOM’s authoritative warning against CT scans has to be considered in view of a 2009 study led by the National Cancer Institute which showed that CT scans administered in the year 2007 alone may have contributed to 29,000 new cancer cases and nearly 15,000 cancer deaths in the United States. NBC News noted the report in its Dec. 14, 2009 broadcast under the headline, “15,000 will die from CT scans done in 1 year.”[6]

Dr. Rita Redberg, U. of Calif. San Francisco, told NBC, “We’re getting a lot of radiation from CT scans, there’s a lot of variability in the radiation that we’re getting from different types of CT scans, and there are a lot of excess cancers.”[7]

In view of the license to kill that CT scanners seem to have been given, patients considering medical radiation have to ask themselves Dirty Harry’s famous question, “Do I feel lucky?”

John LaForge works on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly newsletter.




[1] The New York Times, Dec. 8, 2011, p. A3

[4] NBC News, “15,000 will die from CT scans done in 1 year,” Dec. 14, 2009, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34420356/ns/health-cancer/#.Tufgm7KmTBE

[5] Ibid

[6] Archives of Internal Medicine, “Projected cancer risks from computed tomographic scans performed in the United States in 2007,” Dec. 14, 2009

[7] NBC News, “15,000 will die from CT scans done in 1 year,” Dec. 14, 2009, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34420356/ns/health-cancer/#.Tufgm7KmTBE

More articles by:

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Sam Husseini
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us