Does Ionizing Radiation Always Cause Cancer?

Ionizing radiation is a type of high-energy radiation that includes radon, x-rays, gamma rays, and other forms. In contrast, low-energy, non-ionizing forms of radiation such as visible light and cell phone energy have not been found to cause cancer in people. However, ionizing radiation can cause cancer by damaging DNA, although the exact mechanism is still unknown. Epidemiological studies are used to quantify cancer risks based on dose and to establish radiation protection standards.

Leukemia and most solid cancers have been linked to radiation exposure. The risk of solid, radiation-related cancer seems to persist throughout life, and those exposed early in life have especially high relative risks for many types of cancer. Not all types of radiation have been proven to cause cancer. Learn what we know about exposure to lower-energy forms of radiation and the risk of developing cancer.

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