January 19, 2020
One would assume that after more than a hundred years of messing around with X-rays, scientists and doctors would already be aware of this.
But one would be mistaken.
X-rays have been a staple of modern medicine for a long time, and any doctor or radiologist is quick to tell their patients that there are absolutely no risks or harmful side effects associated with the radiation necessary to perform an X-ray. Now, researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center and Oncode Institute in the Netherlands have discovered that low doses of radiation, long believed to be safe, did in fact create breaks in lab grown human cells that allowed additional DNA to enter the chromosome. In more simplistic terms, the radiation caused mutations on the cellular level.
To be clear, these findings do not mean that going to have an X-ray is going to harm you, and extensive further research is necessary involving actual living animals, and eventually humans, before any real conclusions can be drawn. Still, the results of this study at the very least are concerning, and seem to indicate that there are still some aspects of how radiation interacts with our bodies, on a cellular level, that science has yet to fully understand.
High doses of radiation are almost certain to cause mutations in the exposed, often leading to cancer, or even worse symptoms in extreme circumstances. This happens because ionizing radiation creates double-strand breaks in cells that allow excess DNA to enter. These extra pieces of DNA usually make their way to the nucleus, leading to cellular mutations. Most of the time, these extra bits of DNA are leftovers from completed natural processes, such as genomic DNA repairs or viral infections.
For this study, researchers wanted to see if low, generally considered safe, doses of radiation would have any negative side effects on lab-grown human and mouse cells. As far as X-rays go, the radiation doses used in this experiment were comparable to the “upper range of common diagnostic procedures.”
After exposing the cells to the radiation, it was observed that mutations, via inserted DNA, had indeed taken root in the cells. Surprisingly, these low doses of radiation actually caused mutations in the cells “more efficiently” than higher doses had in previous studies.
Wisdom teeth pain? X-rays.
Your kid fell to the ground while playing? X-rays.
Pain when moving your wrist? X-rays.
Grandma says the weather is hard on her bones? X-rays.
The problem with all of these modern medicine things like X-rays, which don’t result in an immediate and visibly observable negative effect on the human body, is that it’s hard to accurately lay the blame on something after 20 or more years have passed.
What if that one X-ray someone got when she fell in the park when she was 5 years old and her shoulder was hurting was a key factor in the breast cancer and thyroid problems she developed later in life?
How would researchers track and measure the consequences of X-rays?
What about cell phone radiation?
What about Wi-Fi?