The uses and dangers of x-rays

Updated March 23, 2017

X-radiation (X-ray) works as an electromagnetic radiation, characterised by particles called photons. According to Medhelp, its alternative name is radiography. Light passes through the object or body, and results are then printed on films or radiographs. The images seen on the film usually appear in white or shades of grey.

Detection of Physiological Abnormalities

X-rays are used in many clinics and hospitals in order to procure dental imaging, internally check a person's bone structure and detect abnormalities inside the body. This is a non-invasive procedure, requiring no insertion of instruments. According to the National Heart and Lung Blood Institute, X-ray is helpful in detecting medical problems, improving treatments or even verifying surgery results.


In airports and industrial companies, the use of X-ray helps in examining enclosed items and packages, or revealing structural abnormalities the naked eye may fail to see. They're often used in high-security areas to detect the presence of guns, knives or other dangerous objects carried in pockets or bags, according to a report by the International Centre for Diffraction Data.

Risk of Cancer

Patients who frequently undergo X-ray procedures are at risk of developing cancer. In fact, according to, one to three per cent of cancer-related cases worldwide are documented as conditions risen due to exposure to radiation using X-rays. As radiation passes through the body, photons are absorbed by body tissues, which may lead to cell damage. The body has a natural ability to repair this but in some cases, the damage may be permanent. In order to lower this risk, doctors avoid unnecessary scanning, according to a report by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Risk of Heart Problems

According to Medical News Today, those undergoing cancer treatments via radiation therapy also increase their risk of developing heart disease. This is because the treatment requires radiation in high doses in order to eradicate the cancer cells. But even those getting low doses, such as scoliosis patients, may also run the risk of having cardiovascular problems. Endothelial cells in the blood vessels leading to the heart may be inflamed and damaged during the procedure, the Medical News Today further says.

Birth Defects

Unborn babies are at risk of having physical deformities dues to radiation. When a pregnant woman undergoes X-ray procedures within her first three months of pregnancy, the development of her foetus may be affected, according to the Science Encyclopedia. Thus, getting an X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan and other radiation related treatments are advised against for pregnant women or women who may be pregnant.

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About the Author

Rhonda McDowell launched her freelance career in 2008 by ghostwriting an e-book on health and gardening. Now, she writes primarily for eHow and enjoys delving into financial topics such as bankruptcy and foreclosure.