Low-dose ionizing radiation and cancer risk: not so easy to tell

Suraj Dahal, Matthew J. Budoff


Medical imaging has helped physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of numerous medical conditions. The widespread utilization of medical imaging particularly computed tomography and nuclear scans has led to increased exposure to ionizing radiation (1). Malignancy is certainly the most concerning late complication of diagnostic ionizing radiation and the lifetime attributable risk of having cancer is significantly higher when exposure is in the childhood (2). The international experts body recommends the doses must be “As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA)” while maintaining the diagnostic image quality. Several dose reduction techniques have been suggested to follow the ALARA principle (3). While it is not possible to completely eliminate such diagnostic tests, it is recommended that physicians request such tests only when the benefits absolutely outweigh the risks (4).