X-Rays and Cancer: Real Danger or Grossly Exaggerated Risk?
At least a few times a year in my practice, I encounter people who are concerned about getting x-rays, due to concerns about radiation and possible links to cancer. While their concern is understandable, based on the half-truths that the media has perpetuated, reality, as is oftentimes the case, is quite different.
The truth of the matter is that small amounts of ionizing radiation (as typically derived from x-rays) not only do not pose any significant risk for cancer, but there is a growing body of evidence that actually refutes this, to the extent that it shows that it can have beneficial, protective effects against different types of cancer. Imagine that.
Let us not forget that as humans we are constantly exposed to x-rays and other types of radiation from many different sources. These sources include, but are not limited, to naturally occurring background radiation, cosmic radiation, and of course, common diagnostic medical imaging such as CT scans and x-rays.
A quick story: in 1983, an apartment building was built in Taipei City, Taiwan. Recycled steel later found to be contaminated with radioactive cobalt-60 was accidentally used in the construction. Upon finding out of their mistake, Taiwanese officials scrambled to test for cancer, birth defects, and other abnormalities in the residents of these apartments. Evidently, officials were embarrassed by their mistake, but what followed was astounding: the cancer death rates for people living in those apartments steadily diminished, until it became essentially zero. In short, there was a 33-fold suppression of cancer deaths in the people that lived in those apartments, as compared to the general population.
Before the skeptics pull the all-too-predictable “correlation is not causation” card, I will offer you that since then, several other studies and direct observations have echoed and found patterns that confirm this phenomenon.
In fact, there are an estimated 2000 research publications on the subject of radiation hormesis, which show it happens in many different species, from fruit flies to human beings.
While it is widely accepted that ionizing radiation exposure can cause damage to the DNA, which can ultimately lead to the development of cancer, we must also acknowledge that the potential rewards from yet-to-be-established optimal radiation dosages, at the very least merit further study and serious consideration.
Let’s take the sun for example: in small doses, we get increased levels of vitamin D, which helps improve virtually every human health outcome known to modern medicine. However, there comes a point at which the benefits of sun exposure diminish, and another point at which the amount of sun exposure becomes detrimental, in some cases being linked to several types of skin cancers. Just like sun exposure can be beneficial or detrimental based on the dosage, it’s not a far stretch to posit that we see a similar phenomenon with ionizing radiation.
In short, the risks and downsides of the infinitesimally small amount of radiation from standard x-rays as used today are often grossly exaggerated. If still concerned, you can take spirulina and/or chlorella supplements, which can help mitigate and minimize any possible harmful effects of low dose radiation (IF they exist).
As always...YOU decide.
P.S. At AtlasChiropractic and Wellness Center, we have state-of-the-art, digital x-rays onsite, so no going to hospitals, waiting around for hours, and then anxiously awaiting results. At our Costa Mesa x-ray facility, we will take your x-rays, and give you a reading within minutes, at a fraction of the cost of what they charge at hospitals. If you have questions, call us at 714 540 6792 and set up a no-charge consultation with our doctor, who will explain everything in detail and answer any questions you may have.