Expert says breast cancer risk can be lowered by reducing unnecessary imaging


  • Carrie Printz

On the heels of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report commissioned by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation concerning the potential environmental risks of breast cancer, an expert has suggested some key questions for patients to ask their physicians about medical imaging.

The IOM report, which was issued last December, reviewed all available scientific data related to potential environmental risks, including pesticides, beauty products, household chemicals, and the plastics used to make water bottles. The authors concluded that there were not enough data to confirm or rule out that any of these products caused breast cancer. However, 2 definitive factors were found to increase risk: postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy and radiation exposure from medical imaging.

Writing in the June 11th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, epidemiology, and biostatistics at UCSF, noted that the one thing women can do to lower their risk is to avoid unnecessary medical imaging.1 Dr. Smith-Bindman also contributed to the IOM report.

Although computed tomography scans and other forms of medical imaging have revolutionized medicine, women need to make sure they are part of the decision-making process and insist on understanding the necessity and safety, as well as the risks and benefits, of all radiological scans they receive.