Radiation Effects

What's My Risk?

The risks of health effects from radiation doses received during diagnostic imaging procedures are either too small to be observed or are nonexistent. The benefits from properly performed clinically indicated diagnostic imaging procedures, including CT scans, far outweigh any hypothetical cancer risk. Diagnostic medical imaging procedures provide a medical benefit to you even if they do not appear to reveal anything and are of less risk than their alternatives, such as exploratory surgery.

Even if the result of the imaging exam was negative, the physicians were provided information they could use to determine the next course of action. Refusing medical imaging procedures may result in real and substantial risk by not receiving the clinical benefits of the procedures.

Because the Health Physics Society recommends against quantitative estimates of health risks for radiation doses below 100 mSv, we will not calculate hypothetical risks for diagnostic imaging procedures. The Society's position statement "Radiation Risk in Perspective" explains in more detail why it is inappropriate to estimate health risks at these doses. Some risk information is available from www.radiationanswers.org.

What's My Dose?

If you want to know the specific dose you or a family member may have received for a particular exam you underwent, you need to contact your health care provider and ask for the effective dose due to the procedures. Typical doses from many diagnostic imaging procedures are posted on our website.

The following health physics questions have been answered by an expert and approved by our editors for inclusion in our "Ask the Experts" feature. Click on the question to see the answer.

Questions in this Category Are in the Following Subcategories:
  •  Effects on Materials
  •  Effects on Tissues and Organs
  •  Miscellaneous
Effects on Materials
Q11162   –   Radiation effects on electronic equipment
Effects on Tissues and Organs
Q3996   –   Gonads
Q10901   –   Skin damage from radiography sources
Q11305   –   Which is worse, getting the same exposure all at once or spread out over time?
Q11382   –   What types of cancer may be caused by radiation?
Q11506   –   Effects of radiation on the DNA of the brain
Q11131   –   Exposure time and radiation effects
Q11154   –   What affects individual sensitivity to radiation?
Q11179   –   Radiation effects on sea animals
Q11276   –   Can electronic equipment make things radioactive?
Q11564   –   Can algae be awakened by radioactive fission products?