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Physicists Warn Against CT Scans for the Healthy

September 16, 2002|DIANNE PARTIE LANGE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For most people, having a CT scan as a sort of high-tech checkup not only puts you at risk of a false alarm about your health, it unnecessarily increases your exposure to radiation. For those reasons, the American Assn. of Physicists in Medicine is cautioning healthy consumers about whole-body scans.

Other medical associations, such as the American College of Cardiology and the American College of Radiology, have issued warnings, but the AAPM, a group with special expertise in the physics of medical radiation, emphasizes the danger of radiation exposure. According to the group's statement, posted on its Web site, www.aapm.org, the typical whole-body CT scan delivers hundreds of times the radiation of a chest X-ray.

"The risk of that causing a radiation-induced cancer is unknown," says Robert Gould, president of the association and a professor of radiology at UC San Francisco. "The question is, is that risk--however small--worth the benefit?"

CT scans for people without symptoms "has not currently been found to be scientifically justifiable or clinically efficacious," the association said, also citing concerns about cost and the detection of minor problems that lead to unnecessary medical examinations and expenses.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 25, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 12 inches; 444 words Type of Material: Correction
CT scans--A Capsules item in the Sept. 16 Health section incorrectly attributed the statement that the typical whole body CT scan delivers hundreds of times the radiation of a chest X-ray. The statement was made in an interview, and was not part of the warning on the American Assn. of Physicists in Medicine's Web site.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday September 30, 2002 Home Edition Health Part S Page 3 Features Desk 2 inches; 87 words Type of Material: Correction
CT scans--A Capsules item Sept. 16 incorrectly attributed the statement that the typical whole-body CT scan delivers hundreds of times the radiation of a chest X-ray. The statement was made in an interview and was not part of the warning on the American Assn. of Physicists in Medicine's Web site.

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Starchy Foods May Increase Odds of Developing Pancreatic Cancer

People who are overweight and sedentary are already bumping up their risk for developing cancer. Now a study shows that the kind of carbohydrates they eat could affect their risk of developing a particularly aggressive malignancy, cancer of the pancreas.

By examining the dietary records of 89,000 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study, an ongoing research project at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, scientists found that overweight women who don't get much exercise and eat a lot of starchy foods are 2 1/2 times as likely to develop the cancer than if they ate other kinds of carbohydrates.

The researchers were prompted to look at starchy foods because previous studies had indicated that excessive amounts of insulin enhance the growth of cancer cells in the pancreas. Starchy foods such as white and rye bread, white rice, and potatoes raise glucose levels higher--and so increase insulin production more--than other types of carbohydrates, such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains and beans.

People who are overweight and sedentary often already have abnormally high glucose and insulin levels. For them, starchy foods push those levels even higher.

Lean and fit people are more sensitive to insulin, so they don't have to produce as much as overweight, insulin-resistant people do, even when they eat starchy foods. And this study found that the lean women were far less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than their overweight, inactive counterparts.

Replacing some of the foods that send insulin levels soaring with other sources of carbohydrates like green leafy vegetables and fruit is going to improve your health, not only by reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer, but by lowering the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well, says Charles S. Fuchs, a co-author of the study and an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "At the same time, it's clear from this research that being lean and fit is also protective," he says.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute 94(17): 1293-1300

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Next Time You Feel Faint, Try Crossing Your Legs

People prone to fainting spells might try a leg-crossing, muscle-tightening maneuver recently put to the test at the University of Amsterdam. It's a simple technique that--unlike lying down or putting your head between your legs--isn't obvious to others. The trick is to do it early.

Assuming the so-called cocktail party posture keeps blood from pooling in the veins--one reason why people with a tendency to faint tend to pass out when they have to stand for a long time. As the veins dilate, the heart rate drops.

Emotional stress can cause a similar response, which is why a sudden shock can trigger fainting.

To test the intervention, Dutch researchers induced fainting in 20 people with a history of vasovagal syncope, a condition that causes blood to pool in the legs. The volunteers were placed on a table that could be tilted, causing them to become lightheaded and nauseated. All of the patients had a drop in blood pressure when this happened and half had a drop in heart rate.

With the table then tilted so they were upright, the participants crossed their legs, and tensed the muscles of the abdomen, legs and buttocks, relieving their symptoms. None of them fainted.

Circulation 2002: 106 (pages not available yet.)

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A Soy Diet Early On May Lower Risk of Breast Cancer Later in Life

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