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Just Say No to X-Rays!

October 2005

By William Faloon

by William Faloon

One reason I battle the medical establishment is that I was a victim at an early age. Due to ignorance and fraud, my DNA was subjected to significant damage.

When I was just 27 years old, I was checked into a hospital because of heartbeat irregularities. The cardiologist insisted that I undergo an angiogram, a procedure that involved threading a catheter into my heart to evaluate my arteries and valves. An X-ray that emits very high amounts of radiation guided the catheter.

My diagnosis was mitral valve prolapse, a relatively benign condition that may affect up to 18% of women and 12% of men.1 The proper diagnostic procedure would have been a $300 ultrasound, as opposed to the $7,000 angiogram. My insurance company was defrauded of this money, but I have to live with the fact that my DNA was needlessly exposed to a huge amount of radiation.

We at Life Extension long ago warned our members to avoid unnecessary X-rays.2,3 Our rationale has been that even low-level radiation damages DNA in a way that can lead to cancer decades later. Conventional doctors have ridiculed our position that medical X-rays are dangerous.

A new report by the National Academy of Sciences shows the medical establishment has underestimated the cancer risks posed by radiation. After you read this article, I hope you will acquire the information and fortitude to say no the next time your doctor tries to perform an unnecessary X-ray.

Unsafe at Any Dose

Doctors argue that the amount of radiation emitted from medical X-rays is so low that there is no cancer risk. This flies in the face of data showing that any amount of radiation inflicts free radical damage to DNA and adversely affects our genes.4-6

Several years ago, we reported statistics indicating that a significant percentage of today’s cancers are caused by medical radiation.7-11 These radiation-induced cancers are caused by mutations in DNA genes that regulate cellular proliferation.

While doctors state that radiation is safe as long as it is kept at a certain level, we argued that even the tiniest particle of radiation inflicts DNA damage. For radiation to be safe, all of the DNA damage must be repaired perfectly. Any damage imperfectly repaired creates mutations, any one of which has the potential to cause cancer. In fact, we pointed to research showing that the lowest possible dose of radiation not only is unsafe, but also does far more damage than previously thought and is indeed mutagenic.12,13

The pie chart in the lower left portion of the figure shows the contribution of
man-made radiation sources (18%) relative to natural “background” radiation (82%) exposure of the population of the United States. Sources of man-made radiation are detailed in the pie chart in the upper right portion of the figure. [enlarge image]

National Academy of Sciences Report

In June 2005, the National Academy of Sciences released a report stating that even very low doses of radiation can cause cancer. In its report, the National Academy defined low dose as being as low as “near zero.”

While the researchers stated that the cancer risk from any given X-ray is very small, their report stated:

 “Risk would continue at a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.”14

As you can see by the chart on this page, the amount of radiation emitted from a typical medical X-ray is quite low. Typical X-rays, however, are becoming a relic of the past. CT (computerized tomography) scans provide a much better picture of your insides by using much more radiation. A CT scan of your abdomen, for example, exposes you to an amount of radiation equivalent to that of 500 chest X-rays.15

The most worrisome diagnostic procedure is the whole body scan, which experts have estimated is the equivalent of 900 chest X-rays. According to the National Academy of Sciences report, a 45-year-old who planned to undergo 30 annual whole body scans would potentially increase his or her cancer risk to 1 in 50.16

The National Academy of Sciences stated that there is no radiation threshold below which exposure can be viewed as harmless. This finding means that everyone who has had a medical X-ray is at some increased risk for contracting leukemia or a solid cancer. Considering how many X-rays people are exposed to in a lifetime, the risk of contracting cancer from the cumulative effects of many X-rays and CT scans is a serious concern.  



Typical Effective
Dose (mSv)

Number of Chest X-rays (PA film) for Equivalent Effective Dose2

Time Period for Equivalent Effective Dose from Natural Background Radiation

Chest X-ray (PA film)



2.4 days

Skull X-ray



8.5 days

Lumbar spine



158 days

IV urogram



304 days

Upper GI exam



1.0 year

Barium enema



2.3 years

CT scan (head)



243 days

CT scan (abdomen)



3.3 years

1. Effective dose in millisieverts (mSv).
2. Assumes an average “effective dose” from chest X-ray (PA film) of 0.02 mSv.
3. Assumes an annual average “effective dose” from natural background radiation of 3 mSv in the US.

Source: European Commission, Radiation Protection Report 118,
“Referral guidelines for imaging.” Directorate-General for the
Environment of the European Commission; 2000.

My Angiogram: Cause of a Future Heart Attack?

John W. Gofman, MD, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of the world’s most distinguished medical and nuclear scientists. His research shows that no amount of radiation—no matter how small—is safe.18

Dr. Gofman’s data analysis conflicts with the National Academy of Sciences from the standpoint that he believes far more cancers are caused by medical radiation.

Further, he has come to the conclusion that exposure to radiation from medical procedures is a “highly important (probably principal) cause” of cancer and ischemic heart disease in America.18

How would radiation cause heart disease? According to Dr. Gofman, the same way it causes cancer. Radiation damages DNA—in this case, DNA in the arteries. The radiation-induced changes create a cancer-like phenomenon in the arteries known as atheroma.19,20 Dr. Gofman believes that the interaction between atheromas and lipids blocks arteries and causes blood clots.

One of radiation’s most striking effects is causing arterial cells to multiply abnormally. The abnormal growth of cells lining the arteries has the effect of narrowing the arteries.

Abnormal growth of smooth muscle tissue inside the artery creates something similar to scar tissue that occludes the arteries and ruins their flexibility. It is not cholesterol that “clogs” arteries—it is abnormal cell growth that narrows arteries. Lipid-laden cells, monocytes, macrophages, cholesterol, fibrin, collagen, elastin, and calcium are all components of plaques, and collect within damaged areas in the inner arterial wall.

As early as 1944, scientists showed that radiation could produce plaques and foam cells.21 Since then, additional studies have demonstrated that radiation can produce arterial lesions, sticky platelets, and increased free radicals.22-26 In fact, radiation can create atherosclerosis in its entirety.27 Studies show that people who have undergone radiation of areas containing major blood vessels often develop atherosclerosis in those blood vessels.28,29

So I hope you understand why I am so angry with the medical establishment. At the age of 27, doctors intentionally doused my heart with huge amounts of radiation in a medical procedure that made them a lot of money. This radiation makes it more likely I will develop coronary artery disease. As a result of this medically induced insult, I have to take extraordinary measures to keep all other heart attack risk factors in check.

Cross-section of an artery
demonstrating plaque. [enlarge image]

A Lethal Misconception About Atherosclerosis

The number-one killer in the United States is atherosclerosis, which is the cause of most heart attacks and strokes.30-32 Yet doctors are utterly confused as to how this artery-blocking process occurs. Most cardiologists overlook the specific mechanism that inflicts arterial wall damage and the ensuing progression to occlusive atherosclerotic disease.

Most doctors think of an atherosclerotic lesion as a “clog” consisting of fat, cholesterol, and platelets that have accumulated on an arterial wall. So doctors tell patients to eat less fat, take a statin drug (if cholesterol levels are high), and use low-dose (baby) aspirin to prevent platelet aggregation. The problem with these approaches is that while they may postpone a heart attack or stroke, they fail to completely correct the underlying pathology that causes atherosclerotic lesions to form and progress.

If we are to be free of the ravages of atherosclerosis in our later years, this lethal misconception must be cleared up. Otherwise, there will be an epidemic of people in their seventies, eighties, and nineties receiving coronary “stents,” undergoing full-blown coronary bypass surgery, or dropping dead from heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and other disorders.