The Value of Medical Radiation in a General Context
The integration of medical radiation into a broader context may help put the ongoing clinical discussion into perspective. As opinion leaders in the field of radiology continue to state, justification is a viable means to win public confidence and reassure patients over the benefits of medical imaging.1 Medical radiation is only one component of the radioactive world we live in – always have lived in. Consequently, a range of different sources – both natural and man-made – contribute to our exposure to ionizing radiation in daily life.2
Naturally occurring radiation is found in the food we eat, the water we drink and the construction materials used in our buildings, while terrestrial radiation also comes from soils enriched in naturally occurring uranium and natural forms of energy. In addition to terrestrial radiation, we are also exposed to radiation from space or “cosmic radiation” which increases with altitude.
Today, man-made sources of radiation globally account for the smaller amount of our total exposure. Sources include natural gas, nuclear and coal power plants, phosphate fertilizers and, last but not least, medical diagnostics. The use of radiation in medicine has led to major improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. While the development of modern health technology makes new applications safer, the appropriate use of this technology should always stand at the forefront of the discussion.3
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