Identifies Past Medical Irradiation
As Major Cause Of The Breast-Cancer Problem
- 1. Bottom line: The recent increase in breast-cancer incidence is not a mystery. About 75 % of annual incidence is caused by earlier exposure to ionizing radiation, primarily medical x-rays.
- 2. This finding is very good news for women and their families. Knowing that the major cause of a serious disease is preventable represents an enormous step toward controlling the number of future cases of the disease.
- 3. The task is not to reject medical uses of radiation, which are often very beneficial for women. The task is for everyone --- most especially women and their physicians --- to get busy providing those benefits with vastly less harm.
- 4. Radiation dose-levels from mammography have already been reduced by 30-fold compared with doses twenty-five years ago. This study makes it clear that it would be criminal not to make the same serious effort to reduce unnecessarily high doses in other radiation procedures. The author, John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D, says:
- 5. "We do not expect anyone in medicine to put a perceived self-interest (in defending past medical practices) ahead of the lives of women. People who care about women would never do that. It ought to scare the public if some individuals try to use their positions to send this study to oblivion before they even read it." And:
- 6. "This report evaluates the importance of a proven cause of human breast-cancer. Therefore, we expect a humane and objective response to this study from the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, Health Physics Society, National Cancer Institute, and Dept. of Health and Human Services." Dr. Gofman thinks a reasonable and early response from such groups would include the following points:
(a) Of course, we cannot corroborate the estimate of 75 % without studying the work first, but we cannot deny it either.
(b) The study presents a very interesting thesis which deserves serious consideration, because it could be the first important discovery in our mutual effort to prevent a lot of breast-cancer.
(c) There is no doubt that ionizing radiation is a proven cause of human breast-cancer; the evidence on this was clear years ago. Everyone should always include ionizing radiation in lists of proven "risk-factors" for breast-cancer.
(d) Although there are unavoidable uncertainties about the 75 % estimate presented in the study (as the author himself says), we do not deny that past medical irradiation explains part of today's breast-cancer incidence.
(e) Instead of quibbling over the exact percentage, we pledge to make a serious effort to reduce unnecessarily high dose-levels in medical irradiation, as we have already done in mammography, and to make sure that physicians in all specialities who order such procedures take responsibility to refer patients only to facilities which give the minimum doses consistent with successful use.
- 7. Dr. Gofman says, "We expect the profession known as `health physics' to become busier than ever, because these professionals have the expertise to develop ways for reducing radiation doses without sacrificing any of the benefits of medical irradiation.
- 8. The author urges cooperation between all professions and groups interested in breast-cancer. There is no conflict between the finding that x-rays are responsible for most of the current breast-cancer problem, and studying other contributing causes. A single case of breast-cancer can have multiple causes. (See "Co-action" in the study's index). To promote cooperation, the author has provided advance copies of this study to 22 of the 27 physicians on the Medical Affairs Committee and Editorial Advisory Board of the American Cancer Society, as well as to the leaders of major breast-cancer groups.
- 9. The key to preventing breast-cancer is to remove one of the necessary co-actors. Ionizing radiation is a major, proven, preventable cause of this disease. Every reduction in radiation dose is guaranteed to prevent a number of cases which would otherwise occur.
- 10. "It is time to use this knowledge, instead of just wringing our hands over the breast-cancer problem. Because of the long and variable incubation time of radiation-induced breast-cancer, cases which will be diagnosed 10 to 50 years from today are being generated now," says Dr. Gofman. So the author urges the medical professions and breast-cancer groups to give a lot more than just lip-service to reducing unnecessarily high doses. "The radiation doses from mammography would never have gone down 30-fold from lip-service alone."
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Dr. Gofman is Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley; Lecturer in the Dept. of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco. Before and during World War 2, he worked on the A-bomb; soon after the war, he and his colleagues demonstrated the existence of diverse low-density and high-density lipoproteins, and showed high LDL and low HDL to be risk-factors for coronary heart disease. In 1963, at the request of the Atomic Energy Commission, he established the Biomedical Research Division at the Livermore National Laboratory. By 1970, his findings on radiation hazards displeased the government, which tried to suppress his work. Ever since, he has continued the work independently, "pro bono publico." Preventing Breast Cancer is his fifth book on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He invites peer-review and suggested improvements from colleagues who read the full study before they comment on it.
* The new study is Preventing Breast-Cancer: The Story Of A Major, Proven, Preventable Cause Of This Disease, by John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D. Second Edition: 1996. 424 pages. Library of Congress Catalog Number 94-2453. ISBN 0-932682-96-0. $17 / copy. Publisher:
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Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, Inc.
Post Office Box 421993
San Francisco, California 94142
A non-profit educational group, organized in 1971
to provide independent analyses
of sources and health effects of ionizing radiation.
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