Here’s another good example of junk science being used to sell newspapers and stoke anti-radiation fear:
Using normal doses of radiation for the procedure, about one in 270 women who receive it at age 40 and one in 600 men will develop cancer as a result, Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman of UC San Francisco and her colleagues found. For a routine head scan, one in 8,100 women and one in 11,080 men will develop a tumor.
Bull. I know how they generated this number, and it’s based on using the “linear, no-threshold” hypothesis for radiation exposure. It’s based on the simplifying (and wrong) assumption that small cumulative doses of radiation have a fractional effect of one large dose. It was formulated fifty years ago (in the absence of evidence for its truth) to be EXTRA CONSERVATIVE when it comes to radiation exposure.
But it has been used to generate all kinds of unintended, and wrong risk assessments. LNT is roughly analogous to saying that if 50% of people who fall from 50 feet die, and 100% of people who fall from 100 feet die, then falling 1 foot gives you a 1% chance of dying, and falling 1 foot 100 times means you’ll die too.
And since, by the terms of the hypothesis, it would be unethical to expose large populations to low-doses of radiation and to see if the supposed cancer cases turn up, no one will ever attempt to disprove LNT clinically. Pretty convenient to have a theory that makes a prediction that makes it unethical to ever attempt to disprove the theory.
But nature is a test laboratory for LNT all the time, because there’s lot of places in the world where people get background doses of radiation 10, 50, even 100 times higher than what people commonly get. Do we see larger numbers of cancers in those places? No, we don’t. Some places we see even less cancer occurence.
Here’s the simple fact–the body can repair radiation damage. It does it all the time. But LNT assumes that this doesn’t happen. It’s like working out–you “break down” your muscles and they build up stronger than before.
But the Chicago Tribune has published this article with a SCARY headline intended to sell newspapers–but the real cost will come from people who do not seek medical treatment out of an imaginary fear of radiation that then leads to serious medical conditions going undiagnosed that WILL kill them. But I’m sure the scaremongers who wrote this article will rest easy knowing that at least they didn’t die from TERRIBLE SCARY RADIATION!!!
(thanks to Eric McErlain for the heads-up on the article…)