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Dental X-rays May Cause Cancer

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New research published in Acta Oncologica has found that routine dental X-rays can increase your risk of thyroid cancer. Currently, exposure to high dose radiation is the only established cause of thyroid cancer and this type of cancer has been rising. In 1975 the rate of thyroid cancer was 1.4 per 100,000 and by 2006, this had risen to 2.9 per 100,000.

Three hundred and thirteen patients in Kuwait were studied, in part because dental treatment is free in Kuwait so citizens have access to regular dental X-rays. The researchers found that:

"Exposure to dental X-rays was significantly associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer. These findings, based on self-report by cases/controls, provide some support to the hypothesis that exposure to dental X-rays, particularly multiple exposures, may be associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer.”

Researchers suggest that patients not have X-rays for non-urgent reasons, such as a routine dental X-ray when joining a new dental office. Dr. Anjum Memon, the lead study author, said “Our study highlights the concern that like chest (or other upper-body) X-rays, dental X-rays should be prescribed when the patient has a specific clinical need, and not as part of routine check-up or when registering with a dentist.”

Dentists, however, have criticized the study, saying that Kuwaitis have a higher rate of thyroid cancer anyway, which could have biased the study results. However, one of the reasons they have a higher rate may be because of the free access to dental care, which in many other countries is charged for and therefore out of the regular reach of many.

An earlier study published in the Lancet and reported by BBC News found that hospital X-rays, dental X-rays and diagnostic scanning such as CT scans, were causing 700 cancers per year in the United Kingdom. Researchers from Oxford University believe that 0.6 percent of the UK cancer risk is from X-rays.
In the United States, around 0.9 percent of cancers are due to X-rays, in Germany the rate is 1.3 percent and in Japan it’s a huge 2.9 percent which accounts for 7,500 cancers a year.

Further research is needed, but until then, think about refusing any non-essential X-rays and scans and work with your doctor to try to reduce the number of essential X-rays you have.

Sources: Acta Oncologica May 2010, Vol. 49, No. 4, Pages 447-453
BBC News, 30th January 2004.

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Why don't you tell your readers to also not live in brick houses, or walk out in the sunlight. Dental X-rays have the lower doses of radiation than a walk on the beach. Dental xrays help diagnose potential problems that could lead to tooth loss or serious infection.

November 9, 2011 - 8:12am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

My evening brushing includes on drop of tea tree on the
tooth paste. I think brushing your teeth before going to bed is the most important one, but brushing should be done at least twice
a day. Flossing is also important.

July 22, 2017 - 5:34am
(reply to Anonymous)

I'm just reporting what these studies said.

I had a massive relapse of hyperacusis that lasted 10 weeks after a dental X-ray I had, I am incredibly sensitive to radiation so I don't think it's as harmless as a walk on the beach.  I hadn't had any relapses for over 2 years and then the morning after the X-ray, it came back very severely.  I couldn't bear the sound of any noise, even people's voices and I felt inflammation pain in my ears and all down my neck and jaw (they X-rayed my jaw) - I thought an inflammation response of my immune system to the X-ray.  After 5 weeks of severe pain, I went to the doctor, explained the situation, he believed me and gave me anti-inflammatories which I took for another 5 weeks before the situation resolved and my hearing returned to normal.

Incidently, the same thing happens if I speak on a cell phone.  I can text but not talk on the phone because I can't have it near my ear or head.

November 9, 2011 - 10:37am

Dental X ray radiographs cannot be compared with medical radiographs as they are very low in doses (we use the term ‘sievert’ here) so there is nothing to worry about. You receive more radiation exposure from natural background radiation or flying cross country.

[link removed by EmpowHer Moderator]

March 9, 2011 - 2:09am
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