Medical radiation: Too much of a good thing?

Published: December, 2011

It all started in 1895, when Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays. Six years later, he was honored with the first Nobel Prize in Physics; by then, doctors were already using primitive x-rays to diagnose illnesses. The collaboration between physicians and physicists has continued ever since, resulting in amazing advances far beyond Roentgen's wildest dreams.

Modern imaging techniques have saved countless lives. But like every medication and operation, these benefits come at a cost, both in dollars and sometimes in health. In the case of imaging, potential problems include both misdiagnosis and over-diagnosis, which often lead to excessive or unnecessary treatment. And additional side effects may result from the very radiation used to produce many types of diagnostic images.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • 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

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »