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NCRP Report No. 160 on increased average radiation exposure of the US population
Date:3/3/2009

of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), the premiere professional and scientific association of medical physicists, which is comprised of research scientists and board-certified health professionals who specialize in the use of radiation in medicine.

Medical imaging, which includes procedures such as CT scans, cardiac catheterization studies, and nuclear medicine positron emission tomography (PET) exams, has revolutionized medicine in the last few decades. For example, CT scans provide pictures from deep inside a patient's body with unprecedented clarity. These images help doctors diagnose unseen illnesses and injuries, and they guide treatment for millions of patients annually in the United States.

"The medical information derived from CT scans literally saves thousands of American lives on a daily basis," says John M. Boone, Ph.D., FAAPM, FACR, Chairman of AAPM's Science Council and professor and vice chairman of radiology at the University of California, Davis Medical Center. "CT scans are critical for guiding the treatment of people who are in car accidents, people diagnosed with cancer, people who have blood clots in their lungs, and a vast number of other symptoms and conditions."

Even so, in the last few years reports in the medical literature and in the popular press have affected public perceptions of CT scans by raising questions of risk related to the use of X-rays, which in very high doses have the potential to damage cells and cause cancer.

The new NCRP report falls squarely into this controversy because it estimates the total U.S. exposure to all sources of ionizing radiation has increased six-fold since 1980 -- with about half of this increase due to CT scans.

This increase is easily misinterpreted, however, because the report calculates the total radiation dose for all CT scans performed in 2006 and divides that by the U.S. population for that year. What is not considered in this global averaging approach i
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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