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Study finds low cancer risk from airport scanners

March 29, 2011 - Washington

Researchers have suggested that the cancer risk associated with one type of airport security scanners is low based on the amount of radiation these devices emit, as long as they are operated and function correctly.

"The doses are low - extremely low," said Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at University of California - San Francisco, who made the calculations with Pratik Mehta, an undergraduate at University of California - Berkeley. "The amount of radiation in these scans is so low that you don't have to be concerned about it."

The amount of radiation absorbed in a single scan, they say, is about the same as what the average person absorbs every three to nine minutes on the ground - just from being alive. (The human body naturally absorbs radiation all the time from such sources as the sun and the earth). In their analysis, Smith-Bindman and Mehta also determined that the average person would absorb 100 times more radiation flying on an airplane than standing in a scanner.

At the same time, Smith-Bindman cautions that the analysis is based on the assumption that the backscatter devices work perfectly and are used as designed.

The analysis appears in a special article published online in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.


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