Are X-Rays Safe?

Do I need that x-ray at the dentist, Chiropractor, or medical doctor??? I heard that x-ays can cause cancer? Well the answer is: the literature does not support this idea. In fact, at times low dose medical imaging may have a supportive role called HORMESIS. Let’s break this down. Today we review a paper titled “Subjecting radiologic imaging to the linear no-threshold hypothesis: a non sequitur of non-trivial proportion.”

Why do we believe that x-rays can cause cancer??? In 1946 Dr. Mueller proposed the idea, based on one study that there was a linear progression from 0 to infinity that one dose of radiation would increase the risk of developing cancer one unit. Therefore, if you increase the dose, the chance of developing cancer increases proportionally. This is the linear graph that represents the idea that there is no threshold under which the linear increase in dose does not cause an increased risk of developing cancer. The paper that Dr. Mueller presented was later found to be full of holes and corrupted, however he won the 1946 Nobel prize and changed radiation protocols for the next 70 years. We are finally realizing that the literature does not support this linear relationship of dose to risk of cancer. In fact low dose medical imaging like Xrays range from 10 to 100 microsieverts and the annual average background radiation from Radon in the ground and cosmic radiation is around 2,400 microsieverts. So we have lived with natural low levels of background radiation our entire existence. So why is there such a story around low dose imaging? Well, you can’t smell radiation, you can’t see it, and you can’t taste it. So protection policies erred on the safe side and went with Dr. Mueller’s proposed idea because at the time in the 1940’s, we didn’t really have a way of measuring if low doses made a difference or not. Now we do. 

When it comes to a dentist, chiropractor or medical doctor making a diagnosis and providing the proper treatment it is very important that the doctor be able to see what it is that is going on. Especially in chiropractic, it is very important to be able to look into the spine and measure the misalignment and rule out any problems before we get to work. The benefits of getting an x-ray when it’s needed far outweigh the risks. In some cases it has been shown that low levels of radiation like those in medical imaging can increase the bodies repair and response mechanisms. This idea has been supported and documented many times in the medical literature. So before you make a snap judgment about getting an xray, bring up your concerns with your doctor. They should be able to explain to you the benefit to risk relationship. If you or someone you know is looking for a healthcare provider to really take a look and see what’s going on; Upper Cervical Chiropractic care may be just the thing you have been looking for. Give our office a call at 603.380.9184