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Study: Viewing X-rays, other imaging tests can prompt healthy behavior changes

March 3 (UPI) -- People shown images from x-rays and ultrasound scans that indicate their potential risk for developing cancers and other diseases are more likely to make lifestyle changes to improve their health, an analysis published Thursday by PLOS Medicine found.

Adults who underwent imaging procedures such as computed tomography, ultrasound and radiography and then shown the results were up to nearly three times more likely to modify behaviors that had increased their risk for certain diseases compared to those who did not see the images, the data showed.

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The most common changes made after seeing their imaging results included quitting smoking, exercising more, eating healthier diets, protecting their skin from the sun and improving oral hygiene, the researchers said.

Many participants also started taking medications designed to control blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar after seeing their imaging results, according to the researchers.

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"Medical imaging scans are used ever more widely by healthcare professionals," study co-author Gareth Hollands said in a press release.

"This study suggests that showing the scan results to patients to highlight the state of their health could motivate them to behave in a healthier way," said Hollands, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge in England.

The findings are based on an analysis of data from 21 previous studies from the United States and Europe that collectively enrolled more than 9,000 adult participants, the researchers said.

Participants were shown either visual examples of personalized risk information after an imaging procedure, such as computed tomography, ultrasound or radiography, in addition to reading health information or advice. Or they received health information or advice with no visual examples.

Computed tomography is a computerized X-ray imaging procedure in which narrow beams of X-rays are used to capture 3D images of body parts, including organs, according to the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

The technology typically is used to spot cancerous tumors, as well as potential damage to the heart caused by heart disease, among other applications, the institute says.

Diagnostic ultrasound, also called sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, also is a non-invasive imaging approach that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of structures within the body.

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Commonly used to assess fetal health during pregnancy, these images can provide valuable information for diagnosing and treating a variety of diseases and conditions, including those that affect the digestive tract, according to the institute.

Radiography, a type of X-ray technology that provides two-dimensional images typically is used to diagnose bone and joint diseases, the institute says.

Non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, account for more than two-thirds of deaths globally each year, the World Health Organization estimates.

Many of these diseases are linked with behaviors such as smoking, poor diet and lack of physical exercise, Hollands and his colleagues said.

Behavior change can reduce a person's risk for many diseases, the researchers said.

In the studies included in this analysis, patients shown their imaging results were more likely to quit or reduce tobacco use, eat a healthier diet, engage in more physical activity and take steps to improve oral hygiene, according to the researchers.

Some of the included studies also indicated that patients shown imaging results stopped tanning bed use to reduce their risk for skin cancers and increased skin self-examination, the researchers said.

The growth of medical imaging technology could be capitalized on to help people change and reduce disease risks, they said.

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