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Body Scans Worry FDA

Radiation doses can ultimately be harmful, agency says

It wasn't that long ago that the only place to worry about exposure to radiation was at the dentist's or doctor's office when you needed an X-ray. These days, however, full-body scans for early detection of health problems are being offered in clinics and non-traditional places.

And that, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is a problem, according to this story in the Los Angeles Times.

The FDA is concerned that clinics and other facilities are giving seemingly healthy people "higher-than-conventional doses of radiation that are unlikely to do any good," the story says. But there isn't much the agency can do, even if that were the case. Once the FDA has approved medical devices for any purpose, it has no authority to regulate their use. Still, the FDA might be able to limit the amount of radiation emitted by the screenings, called full-body computed tomography, or CT.

One of the worries is that unnecessary scanning of healthy people can raise the cumulative level of radiation they receive.

But others say scans save lives. Jon Hyman, a spokesman for Virtual Physical, a Baltimore-based facility that offers the scans, says that by 2006, the scans will be proven safe and effective by independent research.

To learn more about CT scans, visit this site from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

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