Whole-Body X-Ray Scans

May Raise Cancer Risk

People who pay for whole-body X-ray scans in the hope of finding tumors at their earliest stages may be raising their overall risk of cancer, doctors warned.

The scans are marketed as a way to catch cancer before symptoms begin, but the radiation from the scans themselves could cause cancer, the researchers said in a study published in today's edition of the journal Radiology.

CT, or computed tomography, scans involve X-rays, but computer software and multiple angles produce a higher-quality image than the traditional flat X-ray. The scans differ from MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, which do not expose the body to radiation.

"The radiation dose from a full-body CT scan is comparable to the doses received by some of the atomic-bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where there is clear evidence of increased cancer risk," oncologist David Brenner, who did the study with colleagues at Columbia University, said in a statement.

A 45-year-old person who gets one full-body CT scan would have a lifetime cancer death risk of about 0.08 percent, which would produce a cancer-related death in one in 1,200 people, the researchers estimated. But a 45-year-old who has annual full-body CT scans for 30 years would accrue a lifetime cancer mortality risk of about 1.9 percent, or about a one-in-50 chance of dying of cancer.

The risk may be worth it for someone who knows he or she has a high probability of cancer, Brenner said.

Study Finds Little Benefit

From Higher Dose of Zocor

Heart patients given a high dosage of a statin drug to quickly lower their blood cholesterol levels received only a marginal benefit compared with patients who underwent the current treatment, a study said yesterday.

Normally, patients at risk of another heart attack are stabilized and put on low-cholesterol diets before they are given cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins.

But in the study, funded by Merck & Co. and published in the online edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, half the 4,500 patients were given a daily dose of 40 milligrams of simvastatin, which the company sells under the brand name Zocor, for 30 days and then raised to 80 milligrams daily. The drug was given within about four days of the initial heart "event."

The other patients were given a placebo for four months and then put on a 20-milligram dose of simvastatin.

While cholesterol levels dropped more sharply in the first group, the two groups' risks of suffering another heart attack, stroke, rehospitalization or death from a heart-related cause were comparable.

Weight Problem Found

In New York City Schools

More than 40 percent of pupils in New York City public elementary schools are overweight, and nearly one-quarter are obese, meaning their health is significantly threatened, New York City Health Department researchers found in a study published yesterday as part of a series in the American Journal of Public Health.

The findings were similar to those of a highly publicized study released in June of children in rural Arkansas.

Simple changes could make a big difference, including adding physical-education classes in kindergarten and first grade, and teaching parents to offer their children water instead of juice or soda to drink, according to other studies published yesterday in the series.

-- From News Services