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Medical imaging ups breast cancer risk

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By David Liu,PHD

Sunday June 17, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Researchers at University of California - San Francisco analysed a report on environmental causes of breast cancer and found x-ray or radiation based medical imaging boosts risk for breast cancer.

The report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) last December reviewed all scientific data available to date about potential environmental risk factors for breast cancer including medical radiation, hormone replacement therapy, pesticides, beauty products, household chemicals, and the plastics used to make water bottles.

Commissioned by the breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the report identified two factors that definitely increased breast cancer risk: post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy and radiation exposure from medical imaging.

The findings were published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The single thing that the IOM highlighted that a woman can do to lower her risk of breast cancer is to avoid unnecessary medical imaging," said Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, who wrote the article, and who contributed to the IOM report.

Medical radiation has been known to increase breast cancer risk for a long time. Dr. John Gofman, a UCSF nuclear physician said 75 percent of breast cancer cases had something to do with medical radiation.  The U.S. National Toxicology Program recognizes x-ray as a human carcinogen, that is, exposure to radiation can boost risk of cancer.

An estimated 226,870 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and 39,510 women will die from the disease.

Breast cancer in many cases is preventable.   Many risk factors are known to be avoidable.

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