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Medical radiation and cancer

The chance of radiation causing genetic damage or increasing the risk of cancer is related to the total amount of radiation accumulated by a person. The greatest risk comes from:

  • larger doses of radiation
  • longer exposure to radiation (such as over a lifetime)
  • high-strength forms of radiation

The risk that important tools like medical imaging tests or radiation therapy pose must be weighed against their benefits. Often the benefits, which can be life-saving, outweigh the risks.

Many important advances in technology have helped lessen the damage that radiation can do to healthy cells. This reduces side effects. Steps are also taken to protect people, as much as possible, from being exposed to unnecessary radiation during medical procedures.

If you’re concerned about medical radiation as a patient, talk to your doctor about why you should have x-rays or imaging tests and what the tests will tell you. Only have those that you agree are really necessary.