Radiation is energy that is sent out from a source. Radiation exposure happens when you’re exposed it.
It can be found in nature. It can also be manmade. Ultraviolet (UV) rays come from the sun. They can also come from microwaves used to heat food.
There are 2 types:
- Ionizing—High frequency and can injure cells. Linked to cancer and other health problems.
- Nonionizing—Low frequency and is not known to cause cancer. However, UV rays can.
This fact sheet focuses on the ionizing type.
Your chances of exposure are higher if you are near sources that make it.
Health problems may not happen in everyone. Having a chest x-ray does expose you to some radiation. The dose and risk for health problems is low. Other tests, like CT scans, expose you to higher doses. Health risks from CT scans, while still small, are higher than from x-rays.
The higher the exposure, the more likely there will be problems.
Cancer may take years to grow after exposure. Common types are:
- Lung cancer
- Skin cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Breast cancer in women and men
- Stomach cancer
If you were contaminated, you may have:
- Materials removed
- A bath with soap and lukewarm water
- Your levels watched
If you have radiation sickness, care will depend on the where the damage is. You will be watched closely during care.
Radioactive iodine can be taken in by the thyroid gland. This can cause harm and lead to thyroid cancer. Potassium iodine will block the body from taking in this type.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Ionizing Radiation Exposure)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov
Radiation Emergency Medical Management https://www.remm.nlm.gov
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada https://www.canada.ca
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