- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2010

The conflict of medical technology, safety and civil liberty in our airports is fascinating, but it also may put many in danger. No wonder it is occupying a large segment of airtime in the media and talk shows. As a cancer specialist and a person who fled tyranny to live in liberty, I find this a defining moment in the history of this nation and of humanity at large.

Let me start by saying that any radiation exposure poses an increased risk of cancer. Airline pilots and frequent fliers do get exposed excessively to cosmic radiation, which increases their risk of cancer. A few exposures to small doses of radiation, such as those delivered by mammograms and the airport scanning machines, are relatively safe, but when radiation exposure is done frequently, there is a problem. In fact, small doses of radiation fail to kill cells, but they damage the DNA, thereby increasing the risk of mutation, which is the recipe for cancer development.

So, for those who fly once or twice a year, a one-time exposure to the scanner at the airport is probably relatively safe. That is not true for those who fly for a living - pilots, flight attendants and business travelers who fly often.

As a frequent flier, I would prefer a physical body examination over the radiologic scanner, assuming the government can come up with a safer and “civil” method of examination that ensures that the examination of my private body parts is not going to find its way onto YouTube.

Ultimately, it is incumbent on the people in authority to come up with better methods of screening and examining passengers without violating our health, dignity or privacy. The Israelis have come up with a number of methods we should be paying attention to.

Dr. Nash Gabrail is an Ohio oncologist. He graduated from the University of Mosul College of Medicine in Iraq, studied in England, then immigrated to the United States in 1984.