Munson Health
 
Radiation Exposure

Back to Document

by Puzanov I

(Ionizing Radiation Exposure)

 

Definition

Radiation is energy that is sent out from a source. Radiation exposure occurs when a person is exposed to this energy.
  • Ionizing radiation—a high-frequency radiation that is able to damage cells, has also been linked to cancer and other health problems
  • Nonionizing radiation—low in frequency and is not known to cause cancer (except for UV rays)
Ionizing RadiationNonionizing Radiation
Gamma raysVisible light
X-raysInfrared rays
UV rays (high-energy)Microwaves
Sub-atomic particlesRadio waves
UV rays (low-energy)
Here, we focus on ionizing radiation.
 

Causes

A person can be exposed to ionizing radiation from:
  • X-rays
  • Radiation therapy used to treat certain types of cancer
  • Radioactive elements in the soil or public works systems, such as the water supply
  • Workplace environment, such as uranium mines
  • Radiation from nuclear disasters
External Radiation of a Cancerous Growth
Radiation of Tumor
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
 

Risk Factors

You are at risk for radiation exposure if you are near sources that generate it.
Ionizing radiation has been linked to health problems. But not all people who are exposed develop problems. For example, having a chest x-ray does expose you to some radiation. But the dose is low and your risk for health problems is low. Other tests, like CT scans, expose you to higher doses. Health effect risks from CT scans , while still small, are higher than the risk from a regular x-ray .
The greater the exposure, the more likely there will be health effects. For example, doctors treat some cancers with high doses of radiation. This not only kills cancer cells, but also healthy cells. Also, people exposed to large nuclear accidents can be injured by the high amounts of radiation.

Cancer

There is also the risk of cancer. Cancer may take years to develop after you have been exposed to radiation. Some cancers linked with ionizing radiation exposure are:
 

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

Radiation Emergency Medical Management—US Department of Health and Human Services
http://www.remm.nlm.gov

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

BC Centre for Disease Control
http://www.bccdc.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

 

References


Brenner DJ. Should we be concerned about the rapid increase in CT usage? Rev Environ Health. 2010;25(1):63-68. Review.


Colang JE, Killion JB, Vano E. Patient dose from CT: a literature review. Radiol Technol. 2007;79(1):17-26. Review.


Frequently asked questions on potassium iodide (KI). United States Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparedness/ucm072265.htm#KI%20do. Updated May 4, 2011. Accessed May 27, 2014.


Gross whole-body contamination. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.remm.nlm.gov/ext%5Fcontamination.htm#wholebody. Updated April 14, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2014.


How to perform a survey for radiation contamination. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.remm.nlm.gov/howtosurvey.htm. Updated April 14, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2014.


Potassium iodide (KI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/ki.asp . Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed May 27, 2014.


Radiation emergency medical management: choose appropriate algorithm—evaluate for contamination and/or exposure. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.remm.nlm.gov/newptinteract.htm#skip. Updated March 6, 2013. Accessed May 27, 2014.


Radiation exposure and cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/radiationexposureandcancer/index . Accessed May 27, 2014.

 

Revision Information