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Radiation and cancer May 21, 2009

Posted by tomography in Cancer, Nuclear Medicine, Radiology.


Diagnostic scans, whether it is a plain x-ray or CT scan, use some form of radiation and for those who are exposed to radiation sources, the doses eventually add up over the years and may disrupt cell division.

While debated, a recent study suggests that radiation exposure from medical imaging may be responsible for 1-3% of cancers worldwide. In 2004, Lee et al. concluded that “patients are not given information about the risks, benefits and radiation dose for a CT scan”. Additionally, this study found that both patients and physicians were “unable to provide accurate estimates of CT doses”.

If you are curious about your risk data, head over to Xrayrisk and calculate your own values. Just type in your age, the type and number of scans you have had so far, and the approximate dose value in mSv!

The frequently asked questions section of this website contains some short, but detailed descriptions of the various modalities, including Nuclear Medicine modalities, that may be valuable for patients.

Don’t forget, though, it is all about probability! Not one test will ever be able to predict for sure whether someone will have any form of cancer in their lifetime.

– Andras



1. mattresses - June 21, 2009

I’d say that patients still are often not given information about the risks associated with CT scan, as was quoted in the 2004 reference. I had a CT done last year and asked the technician about any effects of exposure. I was a little surprised to hear her say, ‘no, there is no risk at all, this is a low dose’, didn’t sound right, there is probably always some risk. I didn’t pursue it, as I’ve had very few CT’s or X-rays done in my life. Still it was a little troubling that the tech didn’t seem fully educated in the matter.

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