Nurses are acutely aware of the value and the frequency in which CT scans are used to support diagnosis and the management of patients.  ‘Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge studied the effects of low doses of radiation in the esophagus of mice. It has been found that in mice that low doses of radiation promote the spread of  cancer capable cells in healthy tissue.  Low doses of radiation equivalent to three CT scans, which are considered safe, give cancer-capable cells a competitive advantage over normal cells.’

The following is from an article published at Science Daily which you can access here>>

‘The team found that low doses of radiation increase the number of cells with mutations in p53, a well-known genetic change associated with cancer. However, giving the mice an antioxidant before radiation promoted the growth of healthy cells, which outcompeted and replaced the p53 mutant cells. However, the antioxidant alone without exposure to radiation did not help normal cells battle the mutant clones

The study also offers the possibility of developing non-toxic preventative measures to cut the risk of developing cancer by bolstering our healthy cells to out compete and eradicate cancer-capable cells.

Every day we are exposed to various sources of ionising radiation, including natural radiation in soil and rock, and important medical procedures like CT scans and x-rays.

Low doses of radiation, such as the exposure from medical imaging, are considered safe as they cause little DNA damage and apparently minimal effect on long-term health. Until now, other effects of exposure to low levels of radiation have remained hidden, meaning understanding the true risk associated with low doses of radiation has been difficult.

Researchers have previously shown that our normal tissues, like skin, are battlefields where mutant cells compete for space against healthy cells. We all have cancer-capable mutant cells in healthy tissues, including those with p53 mutations, which increase in number as we age, yet very few eventually go on to form cancer.

In this new study, researchers show that low doses of radiation weigh the odds in favour of cancer-capable mutant cells in the esophagus. The Sanger Institute researchers and their collaborators gave mice a 50 milligray dose of radiation, equivalent to three or four CT scans. As a result, the p53 mutant cells spread and outcompeted healthy cells.

Professor Phil Jones, lead author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and MRC Cancer Unit, University of Cambridge, said: “Medical imaging procedures using radiation, such as CT scans and x-rays, have a very low level of risk — so low that it’s hard to measure. This research is helping us understand more about the effects of low doses of radiation and the risks it may carry. More research is needed to understand the effects in people.”

Information Source:
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. “Low doses of radiation promote cancer-capable cells: New research in mice helps to understand the risks around exposure to low doses of radiation, such as CT scans and X-rays.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190718150933.htm>.