WARNING: Those "just in case" scans could be killing you

"Just in case." That's what the doc will tell you when he wants you to submit to getting a CT scan.

He'll apply just the right amount of pressure to make it sound so reasonable -- with just a hint of menace. The idea that NOT getting scanned might allow some deadly condition to go undetected is only implied, of course.

Most "just in case" tests turn up nothing and you'll breathe a sigh of relief and go home.

But what you may not realize is that the scan itself can be as deadly as the conditions it's supposed to detect. You won't feel it at the time -- in fact, you won't feel a thing -- but each zap of the CT packs a megadose of radiation.

And now, the latest research shows how just one CT scan can damage your DNA.

Some cells are damaged and then repaired. Some die off immediately due to the radiation. And some just remain damaged -- lingering in the body where they can ultimately set the stage for disease such as cancer years later.

Healthy people who received the lowest doses of radiation don't suffer that same DNA damage, according to the study. But most of the people who get CT scans aren't healthy -- that's why they're getting scanned, after all -- and in too many cases, they don't get just one.

They get several CT scans over the years.

With a single scan packing as much radiation as up to 150 traditional chest X-rays, it builds up fast. If you've had two or three CT scans, you've already been dosed with the same level of radiation as those who survived the atomic bomb blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only to face cancer and risks years later.

Unfortunately, this growing epidemic is going to get a whole lot worse. We perform some 72 million CT scans per year in this country -- enough that two people are zapped every second -- and even by government estimates, that will lead to nearly 30,000 new cancers down the road.

Eventually, there will be 15,000 cancer deaths per year due to CT scans.

That's the true price of those "just in case" scans -- scans even your doctor knows aren't entirely necessary, but orders anyway.

So don't blindly accept a CT scan referral. Even by mainstream standards, at least a third of all scans (and quite probably more) are completely unnecessary.

Ask questions, instead -- and if it's not strictly necessary, consider passing on it. You can also ask about ultrasound, thermography and MRI, which can be used in place of CT scans for many conditions.