Mammography – The relative radiation risks.

“I am never sure about mammograms being offered every 3 to 5 years to every woman over 50 and would love to know if that level of radiation could be causing more problems than it solves?”

Every person is exposed to radiation everyday – the sun is a major cause leading to solar radiation, the geographic area in which you live has a large influence on levels of solar radiation. Many building materials release natural radiation and radon gas escapes from the ground resulting in exposure added to this all food sources contain naturally occurring ionising radiation obtained through the soil and water.

Radiation dosage is measured in mSv (milliSieverts), I realise this will mean nothing to most people but I ve copied the table below from the Health Protection Agency website to show you how to calculate and compare relative exposure risks.

A mammogram exposes a woman to 0.4 mSv every 3 to 5 years. There

has been questions raised as to whether screening results in over diagnosis in breast tumours, which leads to aggressive treatment with possible side effects on patients whose tumours would otherwise have remained harmless. It is impossible to distinguish those cancers which

may cause illness/ or death from those that will remain harmless and therefore all cancers are treated as harmful.

For more information see

I think that each woman should be given all the facts in a simple and understandable manner and she should be allowed to make her own decision – a little known thing called informed consent!

Comparison of doses from sources of exposure

Source of exposure


Dental x-ray

0.005 mSv

100g of Brazil nuts

0.01 mSv

Chest x-ray

0.014 mSv

Transatlantic flight

0.08 mSv

Nuclear power station worker average annual occupational exposure (2010)

0.18 mSv

UK annual average radon dose

1.3 mSv

CT scan of the head

1.4 mSv

UK average annual radiation dose

2.7 mSv

USA average annual radiation dose

6.2 mSv

CT scan of the chest

6.6 mSv

Average annual radon dose to people in Cornwall

7.8 mSv

CT scan of the whole spine

10 mSv

Annual exposure limit for nuclear industry employees

20 mSv

Level at which changes in blood cells can be readily observed

100 mSv

Acute radiation effects including nausea and a reduction in white blood cell count

1000 mSv

Dose of radiation which would kill about half of those receiving it in a month

5000 mSv

If you are concerned about any radiation risks you may be exposed to during a a hospital test, speak to the radiographer. There is research and evidence that certain herbs may protect you from the detrimental affects caused by ionising radiation. Visit your local herbalist for more information. 


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