Sophie from Rozelle, New South Wales, Australia asked:

Do full body scanners at airports increase cancer risk?

Do full body scanners at airports increase cancer risk?

There was a Sydney Morning Herald article about pregnant women and airport full body scanners. I fly a lot for work and I'm worried that the scanners can cause cancer because of the radiation, am I right to be cautious?

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Our answer

“Full body” or “whole body” scanners are being introduced at Australian international airports in response to growing international concerns about terrorism. Scanners are already used at security checkpoints in airports in many countries. Full body scanners use either extremely high frequency radiofrequency waves or digital X-ray technology (backscatter systems) to detect objects and substances concealed by clothing. According to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), both forms of scanner subject a traveller to very small amounts of X-ray or radiofrequency radiation. The current scientific evidence indicates that such low radiation exposures are not harmful and do not increase the risk of cancer. The amount of radiation you receive from one scan is about the same as you get in less than 40 minutes of normal radiation background (the radiation that is always around us), or just two to 10 minutes on any plane flight. The dose received in one scan is 200 times less than the amount received during a chest X-ray.

This page was last updated on: May 10, 2013
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