American Hospital Association
Health Research & Educational Trust

Radiation Exposure


Exposure to ionizing radiation may increase a person’s lifetime risk of developing cancer (EPA, 2015). Most patients are not counseled on the risks of radiation, nor receive appropriate follow-up to detect if an injury has occurred (Picano, 2004). Improperly applied or elevated doses of radiation in diagnosis and treatment can result in well-documented side effects or negative outcomes which can include damage to DNA. Even small radiation doses unfortunately may carry a risk of deleterious effects (ICRP, 2001).

The variety and complexity of human conditions make it difficult to predict with certainty a specific patient’s response to treatment. However, evidence-based practices recommend optimized and effective radiation doses that can achieve the desired outcomes in diagnosis and therapy. In March 2009, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) reported that patients’ exposure to radiation has nearly doubled over the previous 20 years (NCRP, 2011). Questions continue to be raised about the risks associated with exposure to radiation from medical imaging. Although the risk to a patient from a single exam may not be great, multiple exams can significantly increase the chances of morbidity.


20 percent reduction in undue radiation exposure by 2019.

Partnership for Patients (PfP) Goal