Is Radiation exposure ( X-rays, cone beam CT scans) is it bad for us? Could it be beneficial?
Taking images of our clients’ spines is a daily must in our profession, when it comes to understanding how to get the best neurological function it is essential to see what we’re dealing with rather than guessing, we don’t want to be messing around. It is therefore important for us to evaluate how much risk there is in taking radiographic imaging and there is a great study that gives us an insight as to how radiation exposure works.
This paper was written by two nuclear scientists Jeffry A. Siegel and Charles W. Pennington and is intitled: Subjecting Radiologic Imaging to the Linear-No Threshold Hypothesis: A Non Sequitur of Non-Trivial Proportion.
Let’s get into it.
First: what does the current radiation exposure view come from?
As most of you surely can imagine the first possibilities there have historically been on understanding the effects of radiation on the human population were during the second world war: The atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the epicentre of these explosions mortality rate was through the roof, but as studies were performed over the years on the populations with a lower exposure a lot of data was put together regarding health risks associated to it.
In the late 1920s a study was performed that has had a detrimental impact on the view of radiation exposure until today. Hermann Muller studied the effects that different exposure had on the colour of a specific kind of fruit flies and created what is called the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis. This diagram that you can see in the images shown a hypothetical relationship between radiation exposure and risk of cancer development. What isn’t always considered though, is that Hermann Muller was not able to show the effects of radiation under a quantity of 100 mSv, on the other hand he assumed there would be the same relationship and so included it in the diagram.
Second: So what are the real effects of LOW-DOSE exposure?
After the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis developed science has also made advances and several studies have been performed none of which have managed to prove the risk of developing cancer with a low dosage exposure.
The BEAR 7 study – a government funded study looking at the effects of radiation ever since the atomic bombs – has even proposed there could be a potential preventative and benefit from low dosage exposure. This effect is called Hormesis whereby a harmful substance gives stimulating and beneficial effects to living organisms as long as the quantity of the substance is small.
Several studies have also looked into different populations around the world that are naturally exposed to radiation. We are talking science numbers here so remember what these quantities mean:
100 mSv (milli-sievert) – is the dose under which the Linear no-threshold hypothesis was filled in through assumption
1 mSv = 1000 µSv (micro-sievert)
Generally speaking the American population is exposed daily to a quantity of 10 µSv from the ground without taking in account any radiation contained within specific fruits like bananas or nuts. Meaning that over a year exposure is on average of 3 mSv.
There are several populations that have a much higher yearly exposure of up to 260 mSv, they have a much higher exposure than that famous 100 mSv and no study can connect any risks that these populations are subject to.
Third: Why are thought to be scared of radiation?
The best shout is the fact that all guidelines around the world are based on the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis and even if there are more and more studies showing that this hypothesis is not proven and that there might actually be other effects behind low dosage exposure, denying the hypothesis would be a big responsibility. You have to admit: if you take a plane the risks of it crashing are incredibly slim, but at the same time the risks are still there. There is no doubt that more conclusive studies need to be performed and luckily we do have loads of populations that are being studied over time are proving the hypothesis wrong.
Fourth and final: what does all of this mean in a chiropractic context?
When looking at imaging we are ranging from 500 µSv to 5 mSv of exposure in the worst case scenario, which if you now compare to the dosages we have spoken about above you can understand how it is well below the low dosage exposure measurements that we have. The benefits out way by far the risks (if there are any). We really don’t want to be guessing with your health, without seeing we can’t know what the exact problem is and doing the incorrect adjustment could actually bring way more problems than you could already be suffering with. And you yourself should feel comfortable knowing that your chiropractor is doing the right thing for you, taking care and adjusting you nervous system with precision, at the end of the day your nervous system is the most important part of you.
Well, I hope that sheds some light on the imaging situation, if you want to look more into it go and read the study that I mentioned above and feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss anything.
Ciao for now,