Radiation From Space Travel Linked to Cancer

The dangers of space travel face increasing analysis as a new study from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center found that astronauts are exposed to radiation that could cause colon cancer and premature aging.

With the launch of NASA’s Project Constellation, a program to send humans to Mars, the risks of space travel have endured increasing scrutiny.

Kamal Datta, assistant professor at the cancer center, and his team exposed mice cells to levels of high linear energy transfer radiation similar to the conditions in space and measured the cells’ responses. The study concluded that the free radicals produced by the radiation damaged the cells’ DNA and could lead to mutations.

“Radiation exposure, either intentional or accidental, is inevitable during our lifetimes,” said Datta, the study’s lead author. “But with plans for a mission to Mars, we need to understand more about the nature of radiation in space. There is currently no conclusive information for estimating the risk that astronauts may experience.”

“For long-duration space missions like a manned Mars mission, substantial research will be necessary not only to further understand the short-term as well as long-term consequences of space radiation, but significant research will be necessary to develop improved shielding material,” Datta said.

Scientists observed the mice for two months after the radiation and recorded that there were extremely high levels of free radicals in the gastrointestinal tract which could lead to colon cancer. In addition, mice started to age prematurely and develop premature gray hair.

A 2004 report from National Academies, an advisory organization for scientific and technological endeavors, suggested cancer may be higher in astronauts than in the general population, prompting further research into the effects of radiation exposure in space.

The study suggested that the quality of radiation, not the quantity of exposure, should be taken into effect when being studied.

– Mary McGuire

Self-Referrals Contribute to Rising Cost of Healthcare

A new study published in an issue of Medical Care Journal by Jean Mitchell, professor on public policy at Georgetown University, found that physician self-referral diagnostic imaging has increased sharply, which could lead to high insurance premiums, especially for elderly citizens.

Recently, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent federal advisory body established to advise Congress on issues affecting Medicare, released reports that announced sharp increases in the use of diagnostic imaging procedures among the Medicare fee-for-service population. Mitchell conducted a study to determine what role physician self-referrals play in these increases.

Physician self-referral diagnostic imaging occurs when a non-radiologist physician refers a patient to an independent diagnostic facility affiliated with the physician. The physician receives a reimbursement fee for the referral.

itchell studied increases in diagnostic imaging from 2000 to 2004 and found that the use of MRIs, PET, and CT scans increased dramatically. It also cited physician self-referrals as a main contributor to this increase of diagnostic imaging.

“Basically, what I found is that among elderly citizens the use of self-referrals in diagnostic imaging has increased dramatically over time,” Mitchell said.

itchell believed this occurrence was a major problem for Medicare and needed to be remedied with appropriate legislation.

“The problem is that this practice drives up health care premiums because insurance companies will go back over the costs for the previous year and see that the use and cost of diagnostic imaging has increased and therefore they will adjust the premium accordingly,” Mitchell said.

itchell added that this practice is “widespread but highly overlooked,” and believes that new legislation should be put in place to solve to the problem.

“This practice is part of the reason why most people in our nation do not have adequate health care. They cannot afford the high premiums that insurance companies charge,” Mitchell said. “Insurers need to stop paying for self-referrals, and advanced imaging should be based on clear clinical practice to ensure appropriate use.”

– Jamie Holloman

Village A Exterior, LXR to See Summer Renovations

LXR and Village A residence halls are scheduled for renovation this summer, according to a university administrator, which will affect summer housing availability for non-Georgetown students.

“We are going to close off part of LXR for bathroom [renovation] and part of Village A to work on the stairwells and railings,” said Karen Frank, vice president for facilities and student housing.

The construction is scheduled to begin after graduation ceremonies end on May 18.

According to Frank, this construction will limit the availability of on-campus housing for the summer, but the lack of space will only affect non-Georgetown students.

Frank said that priority for summer housing is given to Georgetown students and annual programs.

“We have not turned away anyone who comes back every year or Georgetown students. So this is not unusual. The lowest priority, if we cannot house 100 percent of the demand, is the non-Georgetown student. Our highest priority is to house Georgetown students who are interning or going to summer school, and we have conference groups that come year to year,” she said.

She said that this decision does not differ from the policies followed in past years, as priority has always been given to Georgetown students, but space constraints necessitate closing it to non-Georgetown students.

Even with the lack of availability this summer, Frank said summer programs would not be affected.

– Kaitlyn Gallagher

One Year Later, SFS-Q Still Needs Improvement

One year after Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Qatar announced a wave of reforms focused on increasing campus diversity, the school has made limited progress, according to an SFS-Q official.

Last spring, administrators at SFS-Q announced their intent to initiate reforms to increase the number of students from Qatar and other Gulf states. According to Clarence Nailen, director of public affairs for SFS-Q, the satellite campus is on the right track but still needs to do more to diversify its enrollment by attracted more local students.

“I think it is too early to definitively say that the reforms have been wholly effective. While we are satisfied in the quality and diversity of our applicant pool, we are constantly striving to find the absolute best students from the region and the world.”

The Center for International and Regional Studies at SFS-Q has established various outreach programs to help further this goal by becoming more involved with the local community, according to Nailen. Mehran Kamrava, director of CIRS, has been working on implementing a teacher training workshop for local educators, while Candith Pallandre, professor of English as a Foreign Language, has worked in local schools with several colleagues to offer both training in professional development as well as the English language.

“The problems that Qatar’s education system is facing will not be solved in one or two years,” Nailen said. “These are long-term problems that will take a while to fix.We are doing our part to engage schools and students in Qatar.”

Nailen said that SFS-Q is also reaching out to Qatar University, the country’s first national college, to strengthen its core curriculum, faculty senate and student affairs program.

“Our collaboration with Qatar University is important because we see that as a critical path to improving the overall education system in the country.”

– Anastacia Webb

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