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Am J Clin Oncol. 2007 Aug;30(4):437-9.

Beta decay in science and medicine.

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Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA.


Radioisotopes that decay via beta emission are widely used in science and medicine, particularly in the field of oncology. PET imaging, which exploits the basic mechanism of beta plus decay or positron emission, is becoming increasingly important in cancer diagnosis, follow-up evaluation, and radiation therapy planning. Beta-emitting radiopharmaceuticals are finding wider applications in cancer treatment, such as radioimmunotherapy and bone-seeking radiopharmaceutical therapy. Beta-emitting radioisotopes have also been extensively used in vascular brachytherapy and other brachytherapy applications. Many radioisotopes that undergo beta decay yield excited daughter nuclei, which produce gamma rays that are useful for both brachytherapy and teletherapy. This review briefly describes some of the history, basic physics, and common applications of representative beta emitters in basic science and clinical oncology.

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