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Annual Radiation Exposure Often High in Younger Adults

Last Updated: August 26, 2009.

In young and middle-aged adults, imaging procedures are a significant source of exposure to ionizing radiation and in some cases can lead to high and very high cumulative effective doses, according to a study published in the Aug. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- In young and middle-aged adults, imaging procedures are a significant source of exposure to ionizing radiation and in some cases can lead to high and very high cumulative effective doses, according to a study published in the Aug. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Reza Fazel, M.D., of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues reviewed the records of 952,420 adults ages 18 to 64 years, including 655,613 (68.8 percent) who underwent at least one imaging procedure with radiation exposure between Jan. 1, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2007.

The researchers found that radiation-exposed patients received mean effective doses that were nearly twice as high as typical exposure from natural sources of radiation. They also found that a majority of patients received annual effective doses of less than 3 mSv, but that sizable minorities of patients received annual effective doses of moderate (greater than 3 to 20 mSv), high (greater than 20 to 50 mSv), and very high (above 50 mSv) intensity.

"Generalization of our findings to the non-elderly adult population of the United States suggests that these procedures lead to cumulative effective doses that exceed 20 mSv per year in approximately 4 million Americans," the authors conclude.

Authors of the study reported financial relationships with the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industry.

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