At least four million Americans under age 65 are exposed to high doses of radiation each year from medical imaging tests, according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine. About 400,000 of those patients receive very high doses, more than the maximum annual exposure allowed for nuclear power plant employees or anyone else who works with radioactive material.
Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who has extensively studied the use of medical imaging, said it would probably result in tens of thousands of additional cancers. It’s certain that there are increased rates of cancer at low levels of radiation, and as you increase the levels of radiation, you increase cancer.
Dr. Reza Fazel, a cardiologist at Emory University, said the use of scans appeared to have increased even from 2005 to 2007, the period covered by the paper. “These procedures have a cost, not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of radiation risk.”