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Blast from the past: a cautionary tale

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 12 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:121
  1. Denise Adams, general practitioner
  1. Newcastle upon Tyne

    When I was 41 I discovered that I had hyperparathyroidism and papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. Three years later I was treated for breast cancer. Fortunately I was cured of both cancers. However, as a consequence of the treatment I developed a debilitating proximal myopathy and have been left with poor control of my calcium metabolism caused by lack of parathyroid hormone. People tend to assume that I must have “bad genes,” but unpalatable as it is there was an avoidable cause for all these illnesses.

    Remember that there is no dose of radiation that is risk-free

    I was born in the United States in 1955 and by the age of 4 months had developed a strawberry naevus on my neck. I had a series of radiation treatments to my birthmark during the following year. The decision to treat me was not based on good evidence and was made within a culture that believed radiotherapy was safe and effective despite accumulating evidence to the contrary. The fact that my birthmark was a benign, self …

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