Thyroid Fears Aside, That X-Ray’s Worth It
NYT, By JANE E. BRODY
Thyroid cancer and x-rays
It doesn’t take much to scare people when it comes to cancer, especially when the cause, unlike smoking, seems beyond one’s control.
So I was not surprised by a stream of panicked e-mails I received after a television show in which the popular Dr. Mehmet Oz called thyroid cancer “the fastest-growing cancer in women” and cited the harmful effects of radiation from sources like dental X-rays and mammograms.
Dr. Oz warned that people who have more than five X-rays a year have a fourfold greater risk of developing this cancer, and recommended the use of a lead thyroid shield when getting dental X-rays or mammograms.
One of his guests on the program, Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, a gynecological cancer specialist, said she would not get dental X-rays if the only reason was to check her teeth.
Thyroid cancer is much on people’s minds, particularly because of the nuclear reactor accident in Japan. After all, it has only two known causes: a rare genetic condition and exposure to large doses of radiation, especially during childhood.
The effects of radiation are cumulative, so in theory frequent exposure to even low doses could add up to a cancer risk.
So what are the facts about radiation and the thyroid, and how concerned should you be about an annual mammogram or dental X-rays every few years?