As CT radiation doesn't damage DNA, radiologists have been told the technology is safe—but instead the scans alter healthy cells and make them 'cancer-capable', which means they make cancer more possible.
Radiation from just three CT scans is enough to increase the risk, say researchers from the University of Cambridge, and create mutations in cells—known as p53 mutations—that make cells more liable to become cancerous.
The researchers have examined the effects of CT scans on cells in the esophagus—which connects the throat to the stomach—of laboratory mice. A dose, equivalent to three scans, started the spread of p53 cells until they overwhelmed the healthy cells in what the researchers called the body's 'Game of Clones'.
But taking an antioxidant before having a scan seems to block any damage by the scans. An over-the-counter antioxidant—the researchers used N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)—gives healthy cells the extra boost they need to ward off the mutant cells.