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Thyroid Cancer and Dental X-rays

Thyroid Cancer and Dental X-rays

Recently a client passed this information along to me looking for more information. I felt it was a good question, worthy to talk about.

Here was the body of the email:

Dr. Oz Info (Mammogram and Dental X-rays) for WOMEN

Dr. Oz had a show on the fastest growing cancer in women,
thyroid cancer. It was a very interesting program and he mentioned
that the increase could possibly be related to the use of dental x-rays
and mammograms. He demonstrated that on the apron the dentist puts on
you for your dental x-rays there is a little flap that can be lifted up
and wrapped around your neck. Many dentists don’t bother to use it.
Also, there is something called a “thyroid guard” for use during
mammograms By coincidence, I had my yearly mammogram yesterday. I felt
a little silly, but I asked about the guard and sure enough, the
technician had one in a drawer. I asked why it wasn’t routinely used.
Answer: “I don’t know You have to ask for it.” Well, if I hadn’t seen
the show, how would I have known to ask?

I do have several comments about what you passed along:

– In my practice, we do use lead aprons which have the thyroid collars integrated into the apron, so there is no chance that the person taking the film will not use it. You’re protected.

– Dental X-rays do not emit the radiation exposure that medical x-rays do by a very long shot. There have been numerous studies about this, and I think it’s irresponsible for Dr. Oz to mention dental X-rays and “maybe” in the same sentence with the “C” word (cancer). There is just no evidence of this.

– The radiation exposure in my practice is about 80% less than X-rays were even 5 years ago when I heavily invested in the use of digital X-ray sensors and software which need very little exposure. In fact, you will get more X-radiation from being outside for an hour than having 18 individual X-ray films taken in my office.

– The fact that thyroid cancer is on the rise is interesting. Over the past 15 years I have seen an explosion of people (including myself) become hypothyroid (low thyroid). When I asked my endocrinologist why so many people are now hypothyroid, he felt it was because physicians are routinely testing for it now, when they weren’tt 15-20 years ago. My feeling is that the rise in thyroid cancer would go along with the increased incidence of other thyroid problems.

– It is a well-known fact that cancer is caused by environmental toxins, period. I would expect all organs to be susceptible to cancer, not just the thyroid.

– Back in the 40’s and 50’s, many people were exposed to medical X-rays to their thyroid on purpose by the medical profession to treat certain conditions. I have not seen the statistics on the age groups of people who are diagnosed by thyroid cancer, so I can’t comment on if they are a part of this growing number of people being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

– Lastly, thyroid cancer is treatable and curable, even though no one would like to get it. Once the thyroid is removed, the person is on thyroid supplementation the rest of their life, like me.

Although Dr. Oz brings up some interesting topics, I think he ends up causing more alarm that good, all for the sake of ratings. If he were to actually delve into the topics in a thoughtful, sincere, scientific way, the show would be boring. One thing for sure, he is charismatic and believable, and in an age where people are searching for answers they’re not getting from their physicians, they watch TV shows and search the Internet, both of which you can find anything, some factual, some not.