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Letters: X-ray study

May 21, 2012

I am almost shocked at the ADA response to the American Cancer Society-published article in Cancer regarding brain tumors and dental X-rays ("Experts Question X-ray Study," April 23 ADA News).

To say this was a "scientific" study is very corrupted. Since when is a study using so-called "data" based upon people’s memory scientific? Unless, of course, the subject of the study is memory itself.

To say that people’s memory regarding X-rays is unreliable is a gross understatement. I think that it was very irresponsible of the ACS to publish this so-called "study." I think that they have done a great disservice to the dental profession and the dental community as a whole. I would truly like to see them do a follow-up study regarding the reliability of people’s memory regarding dental X-rays (taken in the past). However, this time, please use a scientific method: utilizing actual dental records of X-ray encounters.

I am hoping that the ADA and the ADA president in particular are taking the time and making the effort to address this information injustice in a more comprehensive manner. I am sure that the ADA is aware of how sensitive patients already are to the taking of dental X-rays as perceived by the general public. This latest false media reality only serves to put additional unneeded fear into patients’ minds and therefore makes our task in caring for patients more difficult.

I would prefer to see more aggressive and more timely responses by the ADA to these media-hosted public relations nightmares, which propagate inaccurate, so-called "scientific" information.

Glenn R. Harris, D.M.D.
Hyannis, Mass.

Editor’s note: Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society article resulted in oversimplified media coverage, says the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. The study’s authors discussed the weaknesses of the study design and inconsistencies in the results; however, these are problems that are common in scientific literature. In the aftermath of the study’s release, the chief medical officer of ACS, Otis W. Brawley, M.D., tried to calm the storm by stating: "We need more data before we can even begin to state there is a relationship between dental X-rays and these tumors. Until that research is done, the best advice we can give people is to get dental X-rays when they are necessary and only when they are necessary." (Dr. Brawley’s statement is available at

To help dentists and staff answer questions from patients, the ADA distributed an Issues Alert to all members. (Members wishing to receive ADA e-communications can contact the Member Service Center at The ADA press statement is posted. Additionally, ADA President William Calnon is submitting a letter to the editor of the ACS journal in response to the study.