Radiation risks of medical imaging, from Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Published: October, 2010

Computed tomography (CT) scans and nuclear imaging have revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of many conditions and have almost eliminated the need for once-common exploratory surgery. But will we pay a price—more cases of cancer—for these advances? The October 2010 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch takes up this important question.

Mammograms, chest and dental x-rays, bone density tests, and other types of x-rays deliver only small amounts of radiation to the body, and so add little to future risk of cancer. In contrast, a CT scan delivers 70 times as much radiation as a chest x-ray. And since 1980, there has been a 20-fold increase in the use of CT scanning and nuclear imaging. Many experts are concerned about this extra burden of radiation.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »