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Cancer Radiation Therapy

Radiation: a Cause of Cancer?

The link between radiation and cancer was first recognized by studying atomic bomb survivors in Japan (Wakeford R 2004). Some cases of leukemia are related to radiation exposure and usually develop within a few years of exposure, peaking at five to nine years after exposure, then slowly declining (Ron E 2003; Wakeford R 2004). The development of other types of cancer after radiation exposure can take much longer to occur. Most cancers do not occur until 10 years after radiation exposure and some are diagnosed 15 or more years later (Hall EJ et al. 2003).

What You Have Learned So Far

  • Radiation therapy is one of the primary methods currently used to treat cancer.
  • It involves targeting the tumor with a beam of ionizing radiation, leading to the death of tumor cells through either the production of reactive oxygen species or from direct DNA damage.
  • Radiation cannot selectively target the tumor; therefore, normal cells within the radiation field suffer damage, leading to potentially serious side effects (Porock D 2002).
  • Ionizing radiation is used in many diagnostic techniques, such as mammography and computed tomography (CT) scans.
  • Radiation is a potent carcinogen that can give rise to a second radiation-induced cancer.
  • Exposure to diagnostic x-rays should be kept to a minimum, and women under the age of 49 should not undergo yearly mammograms.