Full-Body Scans Often

Find Little, Study Says

Full-body CT scans -- widely promoted in advertisements as a way to give yourself peace of mind -- frequently find harmless abnormalities that lead to invasive, anxiety-producing follow-up tests, researchers say. And they may be a waste of money for patients younger than 40, the study suggests.

The popular scans give doctors a view into the body from the neck to pelvis with CT, or computed tomography, scan machines. The scans typically are offered at private, for-profit centers, cost hundreds of dollars and usually are not covered by insurance.

Giovanna Casola of the University of California at San Diego and colleagues studied 1,192 patients ages 22 to 85 who had full-body scans at private, for-profit imaging centers. The researchers presented their findings yesterday in Chicago at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting.

Forty-six percent of the scans showed abnormalities, most in the lungs, kidneys or liver. About 25 percent were suspected cancer; 15 percent were other significant ailments such as emphysema; and 1 percent were strongly believed to be cancer or some other life-threatening disease. Thirty-seven percent were advised to have follow-up tests. No one younger than 45 had results that strongly suggested cancer, and patients younger than 40 had few findings requiring further tests.

Pill May Boost Genetic

Breast-Cancer Risk

Women who carry a gene that makes them likely to develop breast cancer may worsen that risk by taking birth control pills, an international group of researchers reported yesterday.

The women affected have a mutation in the BRCA1 gene -- the first gene associated with breast cancer. These women have a 50 percent to 80 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, as opposed to about a one-in-nine risk for the average woman.

A survey of such women showed that those who had taken birth control pills had, on average, a one-third higher risk on top of their inherited risk. And they tended to develop breast cancer before age of 40.

Doctors knew that taking the pill slightly increased a woman's risk of developing breast cancer -- the most common cancer killer in women after lung cancer. What was not known was its effect on women who have inherited mutations that put them at extra risk of the disease.

Researchers studied more than 2,600 women who had BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. They included women from 11 countries, matching 1,311 breast cancer survivors with 1,311 who had not developed breast cancer. They made sure each pair of women had similar backgrounds, ages and habits.

For women with BRCA2 mutations, which are less common, having taken the pill made little difference, Steven A. Narod of the University of Toronto and colleagues reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The cancer risk for women with a BRCA1 mutation went up another one-third, the researchers found.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters