Radiation Risk

Why you should think twice before getting a CT scan

Nancy Stone / Getty Images/MCT

Lindsey Eyles, 11, gets ready for a CT scan at the Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago on July 27, 2010. Eyles wears special shielding to prevent excess radiation on certain areas of the body. (Photo by Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

It's no secret that some medical exams expose patients to harmful radiation. But how much is too much?

Recent studies have raised the alarm about one increasingly common source: the computed tomography (CT) scan, which doctors use to diagnose and treat everything from concussions to infections to cancer. Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman of the University of California, San Francisco, and her team report in one study that usage has tripled since 1996--a concern, since CT devices tend to emit much more radiation than conventional X-rays in order to take detailed pictures of internal organs. For children, the risk may be especially high....

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