In a study published in Cell Stem Cell, researchers from Cambridge University explained that they have been studying the effects of radiation in small doses (the equivalent of having three scans such as a CT scan) on the oesophagus of mice. They noted that because of this radiation exposure, there was an increase in the number of cells with a p53 mutation. The p53 mutation is responsible for an increased risk of contracting cancer. Scientists however, found that by giving mice an antioxidant before they were exposed to the radiation, their bodies were more able to fight back against the mutant cells.
Up until now, radiation from these machines hasn’t been considered dangerous because they cause little damage to our DNA and have minimal impact on our health. Doctor David Fernandez-Antoran, the study’s main author, explains that our body is in fact ‘battling’ between normal cells and mutant cells, just like those with the p53 mutation. But even when exposed to it in small doses (3 scans), our p53 cells can overpower our healthy cells. Therefore, the risks have to be taken into consideration when discussing scans with patients.
P53, what is it?
When this protein was discovered in 1979, researchers realised that it was linked to our DNA and acted as a warning sign for when the DNA was damaged. P53 plays an important role in our bodies by regulating the cell cycle and it functions as a tumour suppression. However, p53 can mutate and turn into a cancerous cell as a result. This type of protein is found in 50% of cancers.