CT scans only when necessary please. Certainly not for those who do not show any symptom of illness, says a British government advisory body.
The benefits of computed tomography (CT) scans for the worried will not justify the risks of exposing them to the massive doses of radiation used to carry them out, according to the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (Comare). newspaper.
Unnecessary scans may increase an individual's risk of developing cancer and cause worry over abnormalities that are benign, the committee said in a report addressed especially to private clinics in that country.
The report said: "There is little evidence that demonstrates, for whole-body CT scanning, the benefit outweighs the detriment.
"We recommend therefore that services offering whole-body CT scanning of asymptomatic individuals should stop doing so immediately."
The committee did not entirely dismiss the use of CT scans though, noting that they could identify problems in the heart and the colon, reports the Guardian newspaper.
But in addition to rejecting full-body scans, Comare said there was no evidence that targeted screening of the lungs was beneficial, and said CT should not be used for assessing spinal conditions, body fat or osteoporosis.
Private clinics charge up to £2,000 for CT scans, claiming they can identify the early signs of cancer and heart disease. Patients are exposed to up to 500 times the radiation dose involved in a standard chest x-ray, said the Comare chairman, Professor Alex Elliott.
The report said scans could produce false alarms that led patients to undergo invasive tests or operations for abnormalities that would never have developed into tumours - causing them unnecessary pain and anxiety.
It was also possible for scans to miss abnormalities, Elliott said.
It said companies offering CT scans should provide would-be patients with comprehensive information about the potential risks and benefits. Anyone seeking a private scan who showed symptoms of illness should be referred back to their physician.
Comare also recommended that firms offering CT scans should be regulated by the Department of Health.
The committee's recommendations follow growing concern about the health risks posed by the scans. A report published in the latest New England Journal of Medicine said as many as 2% of all cancers in the US might be due to radiation from CT scans.