A new study released this week shows that medical imaging scans expose patients to seven times more radiation than they did twenty years ago. Could a scan for cancer actually be giving you cancer?

According to Nature blog The Great Beyond:

The council says Americans living in 2006 were exposed to over seven times more radiation from such scans than those living in 1980, mainly due to computed tomography and nuclear medicine. The council's executive vice president Kenneth Kase says the increase was "not a big surprise to anybody" and doctors are emphasising that such tests are vital in modern medicine (ABC News) . . . The American College of Radiology is warning about overly-high numbers of radiation-based medical tests. The college puts this down to ‘self-referral', where non-radiologists buy imaging equipment and then refer their patients to have tests on these machines (press release).

"There is a fundamental problem when the person ordering the study has a direct financial interest in maximizing the use of a particular piece of equipment," says James Thrall, chair of the College's Board of Chancellors (Reuters). "… Unfortunately, one of the things we have seen in the imaging world is that many physicians look at imaging as the solution to their financial problems."

The health implications of this incredible increase in radiation exposure remain unclear, but what's certain is that some doctors are over-prescribing scans and medical imaging.

Cleveland Plain Dealer has a few simple steps you can take to minimize radiation exposure at the doctor's office, and The Great Beyond has the full story.