Frequent flyers and patients could be at greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Experts fear increased exposure to radiation could damage the brain and increase the chances of developing the killer disease.
Experiments have shown that even doses a thousand times smaller than a single CT scan caused changes to the part of the brain controlling memory.
There has been a sharp rise in the use of CT medical imaging technology in the UK.
They provide doctors with a much clearer picture of what is happening inside the body than conventional X-rays.
But the machines also deliver a much higher dose of ionising radiation.
New research suggests air crew and frequent flyers might also be in danger because of ionising radiation that comes from space.
Alzheimer’s usually starts with forgetfulness and can progress to complete loss of independence
The best current research shows there are certain factors that can increase the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s
A very small amount reaches the planet surface but there is much more at flight altitudes.
Experiments on mice carried out by Dr Stefan Kempf, of the University of Southern Denmark, showed changes in the brain’s memory centre, the hippocampus, by two kinds of low dose ionising radiation.
Dr Kempf said: “Both dose rates are capable of inducing molecular features that are reminiscent of those found in the Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology.
“When you compare these figures you will find we exposed the mice to a more than 1,000 times smaller cumulative dose than what a patient gets from a single CT scan in the same time interval.
“And even then we could see changes in the synapses within the hippocampus that resemble Alzheimer’s pathology.”
Synapses are where brain cells connect with each other and are a key site of information exchange and storage, cementing memories.
A very small amount reaches the planet surface but there is much more at flight altitudes
Dr Kempf said more humans were being exposed to higher levels of ionising radiation from modern technology such as medical equipment and aircraft and this may be a factor in rising rates of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, usually starts with forgetfulness and can progress to complete loss of independence.
There are now thought to be 850,000 sufferers in the UK, a figure set to leap to one million by 2025. Analysis shows the disease is now more feared than cancer in those aged over 45.
Experts fear increased exposure to radiation could damage the brain
Dr Rosa Sancho, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The best current research shows there are certain factors that can increase the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
“Many of these can be tackled by leading a healthy life, not smoking, only drinking in moderation, staying physically and mentally active and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”
The findings are published in the cancer journal Oncotarget.