Letters to the Editor

DISCOVER Vol. 20 No. 08 | August 1999

Terrible Beauty

The beautiful images shown in "X-ray Stories" [May] demonstrated, as you wrote, "why X-rays retain their usefulness in an age of CT scans, MRIs, and high-tech imaging." The use of CT scans should not be discouraged when the benefits are clear, but it should be noted that CT uses truly scary X-rays. Abdominal CT scans cause 12.5 cancer deaths per 10,000 persons exposed to a single examination, comparable with yearly smoking-induced deaths at 12 per 10,000 smokers. Currently, in the United States about 35 percent of all medical radiation exposure now comes from CT scans, which make up about 5 percent of all medical examinations that use radiation. This is estimated to cause at least 2,600 cancer deaths in the United States per year. The simple film X-rays shown in the article still retain many advantages.
Everett M. Lautin, M.D., F.A.C.R.

Discover magazine on misuse of CT scans.