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X-Rays and Radiation

Apart from denial, the story on x-rays also illustrates another problem with the last century -the propensity we have of 'jumping on to bandwagons'. We have done this with all the harmful, toxic chemicals, in all areas, from medicines to every aspect of our food chain.

When Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays in 1895, everyone jumped on it, despite the fact that by 1896, people were getting burns that would not heal, doctors had fingers amputated, others developed fatal cancers. Yet for the next 40 - odd years, they used x-rays for everything from ringworm, depression, to acne. Together with Henry Becquerel's discovery of radioactivity [of uranium, in 1896], then radium by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, we rally went crazy! Radium treatments were prescribed for heart trouble, impotence, ulcers, depression, arthritis, cancer, high blood pressure, and tuberculosis.

This was followed with radioactive toothpaste, skin creams, chocolate bars, even bottled water was laced with radium. This, in spite of the fact that Madame Curie died of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia by 1918.

OK, that's old news. Although, it does illustrate what we do. Now for the new news.

One of the leading scientists of the twentieth century is Dr John Gofman. A scientist, with degrees in both chemistry and medicine, the co-discoverer of uranium-233 and was the first one to isolate plutonium.

For the past 20 years, Dr Gofman has been publishing studies and books, of the hazards of low level radiation. Dr Gofman is a superb teacher and writer. His books are huge - 500 to 900 pages, each one scholarly and authoritative, backs up each argument with data, explains where the data comes from. These books can be understood by a novice as well.

When Dr Gofman makes the statement that "Medical radiation is a highly important cause - probably the principal cause - of cancer mortality during the 20th century...", we all really aught to take notice. Do we? Well, you and I may do doctors? Radiologists? Not so you would notice. By medical radiation, Dr Gofman refers to x-rays, including fluoroscopy and CT [CAT] scans. In his latest book,

"Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer ad Ischemic Heart Disease", published in 1999, [Published by the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, San Francisco, ISBN 0-932682-98-7] contains 700 pages of strong evidence that radiation is a major cause of cancer AND atherosclerosis [coronary heart disease].

Yes, his statistics are based on findings in the United States, where the population has also been exposed to, in varying degrees, nuclear radiation, due to the plethora of overt and covert A-bomb and other nuclear testing since 1946. No question that the atmospheric testing by the USA, UK, France and the old USSR was and is the cause of hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths. In that regard, we are very lucky here in Australia that we have had limited exposure to nuclear testing. Yet Dr Gofman is able to separate medical radiation.

Radiation - of any kind - causes gene mutation. For cancer or atherosclerotic plaque to develop, a cell must undergo probably 5 to 10 separate gene mutations. Some of the mutations can be inherited [for example, if our parents grew up in the time and environment of excess radiation, before we were born], but most occur from gene damaging substances.

Dr Gofman was able to separate the causes to X-rays, poor diet, smoking and inherited genetic mutation. When he finished his calculations, it was clear that, although the other factors do play a role, if x-rays were not present, 60% of the cancers would not occur.

Even when only taking unnecessary x-rays into the calculations, meaning that he allowed in the statistics for x-rays that are necessary, these unnecessary x-rays cause 150,000 unnecessary cancer deaths each year in the US. AND 161,000 unnecessary deaths from coronary heart disease [CHD]. That's a staggering 311,000 deaths in the USA alone, caused by -not the essential x-rays - but all the non-essential, unnecessary x-rays and scans.

You see, Dr Gofman is not against x-rays. Often, they are essential. Simply, he has shown that over 50% of the x-rays taken are not necessary. Then of course there is also the degree of exposure. To produce an adequate x-ray film, a dose of 0.015 rem is enough. Yet from the 50's, American children and from the 60's, Australian children were given mass chest x-rays - totally unnecessary, of massive 2 to 3 rem!

A 1974 study by Baruch Modan ["Radiation Induced Head and Neck Tumours", Lancet, 23 Feb 1974, pp. 277-279] showed that a woman's chances of breast cancer were increased by x-ray doses as low as 1.6 rem. Yet the children were exposed to 2 and 3 rem. In 1956, Alice Stewart ["Preliminary Communication: Malignant Disease in Childhood and Diagnostic Radiation in Utero", Lancet, 1956, pp. 447-448] showed that a single x-ray of a foetus in the womb would double the likelihood of childhood leukaemia.

See what I mean? Yes, x-rays are a tremendous and valuable tool for our doctors. It's our penchant for overdoing things that get us into trouble. Think about it - we overdo everything. We can't wait to jump on bandwagons. I am not sure -1 am not a sociologist -have we always been like this or only over the last 100 years or so?

I remember when the first 7-11 opened in Melbourne. Before you could blink, they were everywhere, 2 or 3 types in each little suburb. I remember remarking then, that this is crazy -they are ruining a good thing by overdoing it. I am sure you can think of hundreds of examples like this. We did the same to our food chain. Take margarines and plastic cooking oils for another example. One company decided to make a non-saturated fat margarine - unnecessarily low fat and high toxin content, but they could claim 'low cholesterol' with this - the next thing we knew, you could hardly buy anything else at the stores and we were inundated with advertising that promised the best health if you would only buy their toxic poison!

We did the same with our water supplies, the same with agriculture, now we are trying to do it with genetic engineering. Jumping on bandwagons, without considering the consequences, without considering if it is right to do or not and then, we over do it. And then, it's too late to take it back - it becomes the 'way we do things', it becomes the norm. It does not make it right, but we all end up believing that it is right. That, is how we "fell' into all these traps we have discussed in the past. Once it becomes the norm, it even passes into legislation and becomes law. And finally, once it gets to that stage, there is so much money involved, so much money invested, so much money to be made that it would really be that conflict of interest we talked of earlier, to now start to tell the truth.

When the doctor suggests a scan or x-ray next time, find out just how essential it is.

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