Effective doses and risks from medical diagnostic x-ray examinations for male and female patients from childhood to old age

John D. Harrison, Richard G.E. Haylock, Jan T.M. Jansen, Wei Zhang, Richard Wakeford*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The consideration of risks from medical diagnostic x-ray examinations and their justification commonly relies on estimates of effective dose, although the quantity is actually a health-detriment-weighted summation of organ/tissue-absorbed doses rather than a measure of risk. In its 2007 Recommendations, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) defines effective dose in relation to a nominal value of stochastic detriment following low-level exposure of 5.7 × 10−2 Sv−1, as an average over both sexes, all ages, and two fixed composite populations (Asian and Euro-American). Effective dose represents the overall (whole-body) dose received by a person from a particular exposure, which can be used for the purposes of radiological protection as set out by ICRP, but it does not provide a measure that is specific to the characteristics of the exposed individual. However, the cancer incidence risk models used by ICRP can be used to provide estimates of risk separately for males and females, as a function of age-at-exposure, and for the two composite populations. Here, these organ/tissue-specific risk models are applied to estimates of organ/tissue-specific absorbed doses from a range of diagnostic procedures to derive lifetime excess cancer incidence risk estimates; the degree of heterogeneity in the distribution of absorbed doses between organs/tissues will depend on the procedure. Depending on the organs/tissues exposed, risks are generally higher in females and notably higher for younger ages-at-exposure. Comparing lifetime cancer incidence risks per Sv effective dose from the different procedures shows that overall risks are higher by about a factor of two to three for the youngest age-at-exposure group, 0-9 yr, than for 30-39 yr adults, and lower by a similar factor for an age-at-exposure of 60-69 yr. Taking into account these differences in risk per Sv, and noting the substantial uncertainties associated with risk estimates, effective dose as currently formulated provides a reasonable basis for assessing the potential risks from medical diagnostic examinations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number011518
JournalJournal of Radiological Protection
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published on behalf of the Society for Radiological Protection by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • cancer
  • effective dose
  • medical diagnostic exposures
  • modifying factors
  • stochastic risks


Dive into the research topics of 'Effective doses and risks from medical diagnostic x-ray examinations for male and female patients from childhood to old age'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this