How Much Radiation Are You Getting?

We absorb radiation from a variety of sources. How much is too much? Experts say 3 mSv per year is probably OK for most of us; 20 mSv for those who must have medical tests.

RADIATIONAMOUNT*

CT scan, full body

10–12 mSv

CT scan, chest or pelvis

4–8 mSv

Natural background radiation (from sunlight, radon gas, etc.) from living in high-altitude cities (e.g., Denver, Salt Lake City)

6 mSv (per year)

Natural background radiation from living at sea level (e.g., Chicago)

3 mSv (per year)

Mammogram

1–2 mSv

High-mileage frequent flying (100,000–450,000 miles per year)

1–6.7 mSv

X-ray of chest (or ankle to look for broken bones)

0.1–0.6 mSv

DEXA (bone-density) scan

0.01–0.05 mSv

Dental X-ray (bitewing)

0.02 mSv

Single airplane flight, coast-to-coast

0.01–0.03 mSv

*mSv=millisievert, the scientific unit of measurement for radiation dose. At high levels, radiation can mutate the structure (genetic components) of a body’s dividing or reproducing cells and increase cancer risks. Sources: American College of Radiology; Radiological Society of North America; American Association of Physical Medicine; The New England Journal of Medicine; University of California, San Francisco, Cancer Center.

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