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LONDON (Reuters) - The Society of Radiographers has criticized Tesco for offering CT scans through its Clubcard reward scheme, saying it played on people's natural anxieties.
Society Chief Executive Richard Evans has written to Tesco boss Terry Leahy raising concerns about the Computerised Tomography (CT) scanning.
The scans, which use X-rays to help detect tumors and other illnesses, are carried out by the Tunbridge Wells-based firm Lifescan.
"Isn't it time YOU had an MOT?" the Tesco Clubcard website asked.
It goes on to say how the scan takes high resolution images of vital organs, catching signs of serious disease early.
Evans said in his letter he was concerned that self-referral for diagnostic imaging outside a nationally regulated screening program is "inappropriate and unnecessary."
The promotion of such schemes played on the natural anxieties of the population, he added.
"I wouldn't want to underplay the sense of relief if something positive and dangerous is found and dealt with in good time," he told the BBC.
"However, for every one of those, there'll be an untold number who are taking up a GP appointment slot for no real reason, who are suffering unnecessary anxiety."
Evans also said in his letter to Tesco: "members are concerned that your customers may not be aware that CT scanning is a technique involving the use of ionising radiation (x-rays) and that examinations carry their own inherent health risk."
The Society, which represents more than 90 percent of the industry's professionals, said it had raised similar concerns in 2006 when Saga, the over 50s lifestyle company, similarly tied up with Lifescan to offer screening.
Tesco, which has 15 million Clubcard holders in the UK, said in a statement that Lifescan employed qualified professional staff who provided all customers with a full explanation of the service and any risks involved.
Lifescan's medical director, John Giles said only low doses of radiation were involved in the scans -- "equivalent to living in Cornwall for a year."
"There's no evidence of any harmful effect from that kind of exposure, otherwise I suppose we'd have to have health warnings up on the signs driving into Cornwall," he told the BBC.
Editing by Steve Addison