Illustration: Kagan McLeod
Just one neck, abdominal, or pelvic CT scan can deliver five times the radiation you're normally exposed to in a year (from sunlight, soil, and other naturally occurring radioactive materials). This type of radiation can break the bonds that bind your DNA, introducing errors into your genetic code and potentially leading to cancer. In fact, the Institute of Medicine estimates that one year of exposure to medical radiation may result in 2,800 breast cancers in American women, with two-thirds of those cases from CT scans.
For safety's sake:
I keep detailed accounts of my medical history to avoid getting more tests than I need. Diagnostic scans can be lifesaving, so I'm not telling you to skip them, but doctors don't necessarily keep track of how many times you've been scanned, and this puts you at risk for excessive exposure. You can use the Medical Imaging History Chart on DoctorOz.com
to record all the scans you've had, then share the list with your doctor. This is particularly important if you're seeing a new physician so she can review the results before ordering new scans.