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J Nucl Med. 2017 Jan;58(1):1-6. doi: 10.2967/jnumed.116.180182. Epub 2016 Aug 4.

Subjecting Radiologic Imaging to the Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis: A Non Sequitur of Non-Trivial Proportion.

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Nuclear Physics Enterprises, Marlton, New Jersey
NAC International (retired), Norcross, Georgia, and executive nuclear energy consultant, Alpharetta, Georgia; and.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (retired), Green Valley, Arizona.


Radiologic imaging is claimed to carry an iatrogenic risk of cancer, based on an uninformed commitment to the 70-y-old linear no-threshold hypothesis (LNTH). Credible evidence of imaging-related low-dose (<100 mGy) carcinogenic risk is nonexistent; it is a hypothetical risk derived from the demonstrably false LNTH. On the contrary, low-dose radiation does not cause, but more likely helps prevent, cancer. The LNTH and its offspring, ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable), are fatally flawed, focusing only on molecular damage while ignoring protective, organismal biologic responses. Although some grant the absence of low-dose harm, they nevertheless advocate the "prudence" of dose optimization (i.e., using ALARA doses); but this is a radiophobia-centered, not scientific, approach. Medical imaging studies achieve a diagnostic purpose and should be governed by the highest science-based principles and policies. The LNTH is an invalidated hypothesis, and its use, in the form of ALARA dosing, is responsible for misguided concerns promoting radiophobia, leading to actual risks far greater than the hypothetical carcinogenic risk purportedly avoided. Further, the myriad benefits of imaging are ignored. The present work calls for ending the radiophobia caused by those asserting the need for dose optimization in imaging: the low-dose radiation of medical imaging has no documented pathway to harm, whereas the LNTH and ALARA most assuredly do.


ALARA; adaptive response; hormesis; linear no-threshold; radiological imaging; radiophobia

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