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Why do x-ray machines increase cancer risk?

  1. May 12, 2013 #1
    I hear they emit radiation which deionizes atoms. Is this due to the frequency of the x-ray? Is x-ray light considered radiation?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2013 #2

    Dale

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    Yes. Basically the frequency of the x-ray is high enough that when an x-ray photon collides with an atom it imparts so much energy that it completely knocks off an electron. This leaves behind an ionized molecule which doesn't behave the way it is supposed to, biologically.
     
  4. May 12, 2013 #3

    Danger

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    Actually, it's ionizing, not deionizing radiation, but that distinction is not important here.
    Please keep in mind, though, that medical X-rays are not taken just for fun or profit. If you are requested by your doctor to take one, do so; it can save your life.
     
  5. May 12, 2013 #4

    sophiecentaur

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    It was not always the case. When I was young, they had X Ray machines in shoe shops to make sure that kids' shoes fitted correctly for 'healthy feet'!!!
    Last time I visited my Dentist he suggested that I would be better to forgo my regular X Ray check-up in the interest of my general health. How the pendulum has swung.
     
  6. May 12, 2013 #5

    Danger

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    I suspect that you're from the same era as me, though (birth certificate chiseled into a stone tablet). We never had non-medical ones on this side of the pond, but there was certainly no issue with what was available through doctors.
     
  7. May 12, 2013 #6

    sophiecentaur

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    That's almost unbelievable - bearing in mind how 'commercial' the US has always been. Perhaps you really are a lot younger than me (my boy). It used to annoy me because I was not tall enough to be able to look into the viewing hood and see my own feet. See this link. OR this one.
     
  8. May 12, 2013 #7

    Danger

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    Them are libelous words, Sir, and I must insist that you retract them! :grumpy:
    (I'm a Canuck, not a Yank, and any suggestion to the contrary is a blatant insult.)
    :tongue:

    Okay, so apparently you have a 20 or 30 year head start on me; I'm only 57.
     
  9. May 12, 2013 #8

    sophiecentaur

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    Like I said - slip of a lad. I'm 67 and those machines were around in the 50s.
    Sorry about dissin' your parentage.

    Not long before my time, people used to take Radium Pills and all sorts of other remedies 'over the counter'. When I was born, I had a 'nevis' (strawberry mark) behind one of my ears. In fact, my Mum took me every week to a clinic and she (!!!) held a radium pad against the thing until it went away. Horrific.
     
  10. May 12, 2013 #9

    Bobbywhy

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    We certainly did have "non-medical" X-ray machines here in the USA!

    When I was young and went to the shoe store for new shoes, we would first try on a pair and then stand up on the big X-ray machine with both feet inserted into an opening near the bottom. When the salesman turned it on we could see all the bones of our feet and the outline of the shoe. The idea was to determine if the shoe size was correct. There were several "viewing ports", one for the child, one for the parent, and one for the salesman. Sometime in the late '50s? they were discontinued and disappeared from shoe stores. Who knows how much X-ray radiation they were sending through our little feet?
     
  11. May 12, 2013 #10

    russ_watters

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    That's a bit of a mess: X-rays aren't light. Light is visible EM radiation. X-rays are EM radiation that is not at a visible frequency. But/so yes: x-rays are radiation.
     
  12. May 12, 2013 #11

    Danger

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    That might explain a few things. The closest that we got to that here was doctors recommending cigarettes for everything from stomach ache to anxiety. (I remember one hanging out of a doctor's mouth as he examined me.)
     
  13. May 13, 2013 #12

    sophiecentaur

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    HAHA the treatment was very close to my brain (what there was of it).

    I have looked at the press photograph on your posts. Are you sure you never had some of the same treatment?
     
  14. May 13, 2013 #13
    Uhhh, what about things like at airports and such with x-ray machines to scan your bags as you go through.......
    Aren't they x-ray machines.......
     
  15. May 13, 2013 #14

    sophiecentaur

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    True, but they are screened and you don't stand in them. Worry more about the staff who sit at them for hours on end. If their union allows it, the dose must be minimal, I think.
    The body scanners use backscatter X Rays which use a very low dose and your body is scanned by a 'flying spot' X Ray beam. Normal tissue will just absorb it but when it encounters metal on the surface, the detectors get a scattered signal and they know which direction it came from. I Googled it and found a lot of journalistic stuff with a tiny amount of good information embedded, occasionally.
     
  16. May 13, 2013 #15
    Fair enough then....
    HAHAHA :approve:
     
  17. May 13, 2013 #16

    Danger

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    Positive. That is purely the result of an unfortunate foray into home experimentation with gene splicing.
     
  18. May 13, 2013 #17

    sophiecentaur

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    Is it possible that you were sitting next to me on the bus this afternoon? Or perhaps a co-experimenter. I moved to another seat but he followed me.
     
  19. May 13, 2013 #18
    Remeber it well.... went to Timpsons every saturday to have my feet X-rayd...couldn't afford the shoes unfortunately, but feet were always warm on saturday...and I still have them.
     
  20. May 13, 2013 #19

    sophiecentaur

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    Six toes on each side?
     
  21. May 13, 2013 #20

    ZombieFeynman

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    This distinction is not always true and, in my opinion, hinders understanding. It is rather common in physics to refer to electromagnetic radiation of all frequencies as light, distinguishing light we can see by prefixing it with visible. This usage is not universal, but it is widespread enough that I suggest disregarding the bolded sentence above.
     
  22. May 13, 2013 #21
    When I went in the shop, but not when I came out !!
     
  23. May 13, 2013 #22

    sophiecentaur

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    I don't think many people would use the term "light" to describe the way a radio wave is received. Likewise, ionising radiation is so different in important respects that it would be misleading to include it as light (except, possibly, for the bit just to the left of violet in the colours of the rainbow).

    Whilst the common features of all frequencies of EM radiation are plain and should be emphasised, the distinctions are almost as relevant.
     
  24. May 13, 2013 #23

    ZombieFeynman

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    You should let SLAC know. Apparently they have misnamed one of their xray lasers a Linear Coherent Light Source.

    They have another one too! The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource also emits xrays.
     
  25. May 13, 2013 #24

    sophiecentaur

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    I must say, I find threads about 'classification' some of the least interesting in PF.
    There is always a case to prove things either way and it never really helps us understand more about the subject.
     
  26. May 13, 2013 #25

    Danger

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    I just find it easier to think of them all as light to avoid confusion. As an example:
    A UV light source is racing away from me at relativistic speed, so I perceive it as being IR. Someone in between, moving at some other speed, will see "visible" light. Birds and insects consider UV to be "visible", since they can see it. Under the proper conditions, I can see the IR output of my TV remote control. How can we avoid the fact that they're all the same thing?
     
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