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5 Things to Know About X-Ray Radiation

Children are More Vulnerable

Brief exposure to ionizing radiation isn't as worrisome in adults because mature cells can quickly repair themselves (for the most part), but babies' and children's bones and tissues are more at risk. Kids' cells divide more rapidly as they grow, creating more opportunities for mutations and DNA damage to be replicated. Pregnant women should tell their doctors they're with child before having any X-rays. And even though most medical scans avoid exposing fetuses to radiation, it's important to talk things over with a doctor to be sure.

Also, because the effects of radiation on the body accumulate with time, doctors reserve the use of X-rays on young patients for times when an immediate health concern outweighs the long-term risk -- much like what's done for adults [source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration]. This vulnerability leaves children at a greater risk of developing cancer and other health problems later in life.

Next time you're due for medical tests, it might be a good idea to ask a few questions. Find out what's appropriate to ask on the following page.