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Medical Radiation Exposure; The Dangers

The problem with radiation is that it interacts with living tissues causing damage to chromosomes (DNA), and proteins and lipids. Medical imaging is responsible for about 50% of the total radiation exposure to a typical US resident. Here are examples of how much exposure one receives with some common X-rays tests:

  • Radiation dose from 1 chest X-ray equals a 10-day exposure to natural radiation.
  • Each cigarette smoked exposes the smoker to the radiation of 1 chest X-ray.
  • Radiation from 1 chest CT-scan is like 100 chest X-rays!
  • Radiation dose from 1 mammogram equals a 3- month exposure to natural radiation.
  • Radiation dose from 1 DEXA scan equals less than a 1-day exposure to natural radiation.

Mammograms expose the body to radiation 10- 100x higher than chest X-rays. Since Mammograms have been introduced into screening the number of ductal carcinoma in-situ has increased by 328%.

As an aside, the radiation one is exposed to on a 7-hour flight from New York to Europe is equal to 1 chest X-ray.

Doctors today are just beginning to take into account prior radiation exposure when considering the necessity of ordering an additional radiological test.

Terry Pfau DO, HMD

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